The first time I saw Chelsy Lau, she was sitting at her keyboard and fronting what was then an eponymous ensemble opening up for Kris Hansen’s Left Hand Band (I was the drummer) at The Blackstone (now The Met). I remember being so impressed with her above average skills for a newer singer and songwriter. She seemed quite seasoned as a performer already.
Little did I realize that -- in the years that would quickly come -- she would establish herself as a premiere front talent in the regional music scene in her role as lead singer for both Fungus Amungus and Sauce. Anyone who witnessed a steamy set by either of these soul conquering bands would have been uplifted by repeatedly stellar performances; with Ms. Lau taking off into the stratosphere, while connecting with the audience like it was family.
And I guess it was.
Chelsy gave at the altar and in return was able to preach the good news with music.
The last time I saw Chelsy was at a Matty Odabashian jam at The Parlour a few months back. I knew she had fought with the demons a bit, just from some posts of frustration she had shared, but she got up on stage and sang with the musician’s vamping behind her -- and it alerted me to her potential as a world-class singer. Later, she was hanging out and I asked her if she liked Billie Holiday (because she sounded like she had that weary blues timbre in her phrasing that night). Without a word she put her arms around me and crooned Strange Fruit into my ear in a genuine gesture of selfless sharing. I was floored at how even and controlled she mimicked the legend in almost a whisper.
In Chelsy’s passing, I am saddened and I mourn with the entire local music community (both performers and fans) for what we’ve lost. All I can see is an empty spotlight with a microphone waiting in solitude.