After witnessing his jaw-dropping performance at Bumbershoot in September, I was somewhat shocked to see that Gallant was the opener for his Mind of a Genius labelmate on the Neon City tour. Electronic music producer/singer ZHU would have been the perfect warm-up for Gallant’s 40-minute set, but instead, Gallant kicked off the show at 9 o’clock on the dot. I sprinted to the front of the stage and was pleased, albeit surprised once more, to find a spot up close. I began to drink in the live version of “Talking to Myself,” which I have been relentlessly playing on Spotify since his new album Ology dropped last month.
Make no mistake, the crowd was rightfully impressed with the future-soul singer’s intense high-climbing falsetto, bold lyricism, and alternative R&B sound. And there were PLENTY of people there who knew the lyrics to Gallant’s most popular tracks like “Shotgun” and “Weight in Gold.” But it was apparent that the majority of concert-goers seemed to be Coachella stragglers—they were there to experience a rave. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that this talented motherfucker wasn’t headlining his own tour already. For me, Gallant stole the show.
In my opinion, EDM doesn’t make for the most stimulating live experience. Isn’t that why masses of people feel the need to be half-nekkid and under the influence of psychedelic drugs and/or alcohol at these shows? I think EDM is kind of like chicken wings in that way—they aren’t typically enjoyed in a neutral state. Sorry wings-lovers, but this is the only part of the chicken that needs to be slathered in a heavy-flavored sauce in order for us to really get down with them. Perhaps my confusion can also be attributed to the fact that when it comes to seeing concerts—and just life in general—I enjoy a tamer ganja-inflicted high as opposed to consuming hard drugs or heavy alcohol. While drinking too much has certainly ruined many an experience, getting “too high” on bud alone has never been an issue. In the case of the Neon City tour, I smoked a half-gram joint rolled from Zion Cannabis’ Blue Dream on my walk to the Roseland, which simply enhanced my experience and made me want to eat an entire bucket of tater tots (which I begrudgingly shared with fellow WOHMer Michelle).
Even though wings and EDM aren’t really my thing, I still respect ZHU as a producer. His music seemed like something I would want to hear during a night of fearless dancing with the gays at CC Slaughters; I would need to down about four vodka lemonades and maybe a Redbull, but I could do it and would thoroughly enjoy myself. But when I’m high as a kite and in the mood to vibe-out to soulful vocals, slow beats or smooth rhythms (aka Me all the time), being jostled by a sea of shirtless sweaty white dudes and sexually liberated moon boot-wearers isn’t exactly my scene. The stage setup was kind of neat, lit up with ZHU’s logo and the occasional use of lasers, but the performers themselves weren’t much to look at. I think a lot of this is due to ZHU’s desire to maintain an anonymous presence, donning a dark hood and only occasionally addressing the crowd.
But alas, I did find enjoyment in the experience. ZHU’s set was musically very listenable, and not too predictable, setting itself apart from some other EDM sets I’ve seen. I especially enjoyed the liberal use of the sax player and any time that ZHU actually sang on the mic. A crowd favorite of the night was his multi-mashup of Outcast songs: “Moves Like Ms. Jackson.” And when he closed the show with his Grammy-nominated song “Faded” I was astonished to hear the crowd knew every single word. Like damnnn, I didn’t know ZHU fans knew him like that!
I probably would have participated more in the dance party if there was a little more space to move… and if the security wasn’t spending their time breaking up dance circles… and if I wanted to amp myself up with molly instead of mellow marijuana. But that’s just not the case. To each her own.