A video for Mourning [A] BLKstar's "Garner Poem" from their album "The Garner Poems."

Speaking with Mourning [A] BLKstar

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On October 26, 2018, Cleveland’s Mourning [A] BLKstar released The Garner Poems, a sonically dense, gorgeously realized concoction that poetically reckons with a wealth of societal evils all while experimenting with a wide range of soundscapes. The work takes its name from the memory of Eric Garner, a black man who was brutally murdered by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in 2014 on Staten Island.

The album is the sophomore victory of the group, which boasts a roster of ten multi-generational, genre and gender-defying vocalists and instrumentalists. Lead composer, RA Washington, brought together the members of the group after his close friend, Dwayne Pigee, (who was a musician, poet, and producer who performed under the name François Fissi-Bissi Okrakongo,) was slain in February 2016 at the tragically young age of 41.

“I had a batch of songs, sketches, really, surrounding the death of (Pigee), and I was sad that David Bowie had died, and that Prince had died, and I asked LaToya (Kent, a vocalist for the group,) and James (Long, Mourning [A] BLKstar vocalist,) if they would like to sing on top of what I had,” said Washington in an interview with WOUB a few days before the genre-bending orchestra performs at The Union on Saturday, January 19. “We listened back to what we had, and we liked it, so we asked Kyle (Kidd, Mourning [A] BLKstar vocalist,) to come on board and we started a band.”

2019 is looking to be a big year for Mourning [A] BLKstar, as they already have a performance at the Kennedy Performing Arts Center in Washington, D.C. on the books for January 25, and they have just been asked to perform at SXSW 2019 in March. In order to fund the latter venture, which is quite the ordeal given that the band has so many members, the group has established a gofundme crowdfunding campaign, which you can access at this link. The group is also preparing for the May 10 release of The Reckoning as well as the December 2019 release of yet another album on Don Giovanni Records, The Cycle.

The band’s performance on Saturday isn’t their first in Athens, they have performed several times at The Union, stunning audiences each time with their equal parts raw, emotional authenticity and technical musical mastery.

“(When we perform) we stay pure in our intentions — we let go of everything and allow ourselves to be completely present with the material, with the crowd, and with ourselves, which creates an alchemy on stage which expounds out into the space,” said LaToya Kent. “There is no room for any of us to not be our true selves in the moment, and I think that is what comes off as beautiful.”

The group expressed that they are excited to kick off their 2019 winter tour at The Union.

“Our experience in Athens has been great – I’ll admit that I, personally, didn’t really know what to expect,” said Kyle Kidd, who explained that his mother attending Ohio University was his only prior experience with the region. “But once we got a feel for everything, everyone was so welcoming and nice, and every time we have come back, it has been an amazing time. We are really excited to have been invited back.”

Mourning [A] BLKstar will perform at The Union on Saturday, January 19. Water Witches and Bloody Show will open, and doors are at 9 p.m. The Honzo Gonzo Liquid Light Show will also be there to provide a psychedelic backdrop to the performance. The show is presented by WCLI (Hocking College Radio) and Blackout Booking.