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Davis, California

Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Earl Sweatshirt and Friends

Rapper’s concert left audience feeling like one of the gang

Upon arriving to see Earl Sweatshirt in concert last Thursday, the energy and excitement manifested in the longest line we’ve ever seen for a concert at Ace of Spades. The line was filled with edgy teens donning Wolf Gang apparel, hipster 20-somethings in bucket hats and us, two UC Davis students just trying to chill in our Dickies and floral shirts.

Once we entered Ace of Spades for the “Thebe Kgositsile Presents: FIRE IT UP! A tour starring EARL SWEATSHIRT & FRIENDS” show, everyone crowded the stage, eager to see an act that wouldn’t go on for another hour still. Just the energy from knowing that Earl and his friends were backstage was contagious.

We were surprised at how the audience’s time was respected. It easily could have been very Odd Future-esque, with the artists coming on late, yelling for a few minutes and then dropping the mic. However, MIKE, one of said “friends” who would be performing, stepped onto stage right on time.

MIKE’s set was great and the whole audience was vibing to his lyrics and the beat. He was excited to be there, which made for a great opening act. Even if the crowd didn’t know all of the words, his on-stage crew did.

The second opener, Liv.E, is one of our new favorite artists. When Dallas-native Liv.E walked on stage in a cowboy hat with a pink toy gun and began to sing and rap, the audience was captivated. Regardless of familiarity, Liv.E had a sound that was easy to dance to. Giving off Erykah Badu vibes, Liv.E commanded the stage, swinging her hips to her songs.

Earl Sweatshirt, born Thebe Kgositsile, was originally known for being part of Tyler the Creator’s Odd Future rap collective, but he has since created a crew of his own artists with a different, more soulful vibe. While there has never been any question as to whether or not Earl is a serious artist, seeing his presence on stage and the talent of the artists he surrounds himself with affirmed his commitment to music and his unique sound.

After a short intermission, Earl casually walked on stage in a tour shirt and sweatpants. Sipping his water, he took his time getting into his element and jamming to the opening of “Molasses.”

Both of us having been to multiple shows at Ace of Spades, this show commanded a unique presence that drew everyone to the stage as hands bumped up and down shouting “Aye.”

Earl’s most recent album “Some Rap Songs” was full of experimental beats and sounds that might have been hard to perform. One example is “Riot!” which is completely instrumental. However, Earl added his own live touch, asking everyone to sing along. The audience then hummed the chords of “Riot!” together, just like we do when we’re listening on our own.

Earl performed an hour of straight music. Up on stage, he was in his element. Earl often had his back turned to the audience, not out of snobbery or shyness but simply so he could face his friends. It felt like we were in his living room just watching him dance and tell his story. Earl commanded the stage in a very different way than Liv.E, but he commanded it nonetheless. The stage became his space to share with his friends.

“Some Rap Songs” is a very cohesive album that can’t be easily broken up, and Earl performed it just like that. To our surprise and delight, it translated well onto stage, sounding exactly like, if not better, than the album. With songs like “Grief” and “Faucet” from 2015’s “I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside: An Album by Earl Sweatshirt,” the audience could hear his transition as an artist.

Another thing we noticed was the amount of phones out at the concert. While of course people have their phones out for an occasional picture or video, most of the audience was so tuned into the music that phones were at a minimum, which made for a refreshing change of pace.

Everyone was so respectful of each other; there was no pushing or aggression because our fellow Earl fans were so genuinely invested in the musical experience that it was all they cared about. Earl fostered this feeling because he, too, was just vibing to the music. Occasionally during his breaks he would stop and say “What’s up, Sacramento?” but other than that it was mostly just the music.

Overall, we both left the concert feeling euphoric as we looked around and saw everyone soaking up the moment with a smile on their face and in no rush to leave. It seemed that everyone there had been waiting to see Earl for years, and this was finally a moment that they wanted to cherish forever.

Written By: Liz Jacobson and Rosie Schwarz — arts@theaggie.org


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