Photo by Gina Joy Chong

Tokimonsta: Alive and Well

The DJ/producer recalls what making music is all about at Hard Rock's Vinyl.

My seasoned colleagues give my generation a lot of flack for transforming Las Vegas from the live music mecca it once was to a club cult that worships guys in a booth pressing buttons. While DJ and producer Jennifer Lee, a.k.a. Tokimonsta, was stationed behind a booth for most of her April 5 performance at Vinyl inside Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, she put out raw expression that could match any “live” set.

Photos by Gina Joy Chong
After breaking news last Fall that she had lost her speaking and musical abilities due to complications from brain surgery in 2016, Lee released Lune Rouge and continued touring for it—emphasizing not her recent struggle, but that nothing would stop her from making music. Half a year after the release of what she calls her most personal piece of work to date, the Lune Rouge tour still exudes that fresh drive.

The Life Is Beautiful alum announced this, at her first solo show in Las Vegas, with cerebral synth chords and light projections of moonscapes and cherry blossoms. The set began with the hit single “We Love,” featuring MNDR and then some of Missy Elliot’s “Get Ur Freak On.” After all, for this DJ, music isn’t a repertoire, but an experimental playground in which new, original songs can interact with pop hits of the past.

A brief revisit of “Darkest Dim” brought the crowd back to early days of the artist’s growing notoriety, followed by the new album’s heartbreak anthem “Don’t Call” featuring Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna. After another original favorite, “The World Is Ours,” Lee addressed her recent struggles: “If I made it through, you can too. … This is a very personal song.”

Selah Sue’s vocals rang out in the song “I Wish I Could”: “I will feel the sorrow / But the night is full of day / I’mma hold onto life.” Coming off that cathartic release were clips from Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” and “Humble.” Having not broken her smile or head-bopping the entire night, Tokimonsta signed off with bytes from D.R.A.M.’s “Broccoli” and a remix of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” as she skirted the front of the stage for a selfie video with the crowd.

Not a “live music” set in the traditional sense, but very much alive and full of energy, Tokimonsta’s music-making at Vinyl fed hers and others’ impetus. After what seemed like a unanimous encore from a sweaty, tired crowd, dancing continued into the night.