Childish Gambino at Myth, 3/18/14
Photo by Erik Hess
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Childish Gambino's rap schtick shouldn't work as well as it does. In the vein of Drake a la Degrassi, Gambino -- aka Donald Glover -- got his start writing for 30 Rock before earning a role on NBC's try-hard comedy Community. But despite, or perhaps because of this, Gambino made a name for himself in the rap world, starting with a number of self-released mixtapes. It's not necessarily a good name -- critics have had a hard time taking his fluffy background and wholesome nerd aesthetic seriously -- but, because of the internet, his presence has been inescapable.
Gambino is dorky. He doesn't have a particularly interesting voice. Sometimes he tries too hard and crosses into gimicky territory. But he compensates for what he lacks in witty lyricism, enthusiasm, and intelligence -- most of the time.
Before Gambino's show at the Myth started, fans were instructed to download the Deep Web app on their cell phones, which allows the crowd to interact with other attendees through a live message board projected on the screen. And talk about a good marketing technique -- when the app is launched, the message reads, "You must be at a show to use this app." In reality, you must be at the first 45 minutes of a show to use this app.
At 7:45, DJ Stefon Ponce appeared on the left side of the stage and yelled, "Welcome to the Internet," at which point users with the Deep Web app installed on their phones could draw and type messages that would then be projected onto the large screen behind the DJ. The intellect exhibited in the photos and messages was about as high as you might expect. We're talking pictures of dicks, swastikas and dollar signs, and comments like, "Behind the anus," "Sit on my face," and "Reddit sucks." When Gambino took the stage, the app became useless.
Ponce, who proudly announced to the crowd that he produced Gambino's track "3005," tried but didn't deliver. He primarily played the choruses of popular hip hop songs, paying no attention to whether or not the songs rhymically flowed into one another, which made for a number of painful pauses. The crowd got turnt up during "Dance (A$$)" and "Bugatti," but the enthusiasm was lost in the awkward dropoffs. To make matters worse, when Ponce wanted the crowd to sing along, he simply bleeped out parts of the song and was met with dull murmurs.
"Where my ladies at in this bitch?" he asked before playing "No Scrubs" and bleeping out every other word.
When Ponce left the stage, the crowd began chanting "Worldstar," the title of a Gambino track off Because the Internet and the name of a certain hip-hop website. The chanting stopped when the sounds of a '90s computer trying to connect to the Internet began emanating from the Myth's uber-powerful speakers. After a few minutes of annoying beeping, a large loading bar appeared on the screen and the bass kicked in. When the loading bar reached completion, the screen displayed an array of computer-inspired images, followed by a talking ball that said something along the lines of, "I wish I had something important to say."
Photos by Erik Hess
The ball disappeared and was replaced by an image of the inside of a gaudy mansion, complete with framed artwork and a crackling fireplace. Gambino, clad in short shorts and a baggy grey sweater, quietly walked to the piano and appropriately kicked off the night with "Playing Around Before the Party" from Because the Internet.
Gambino was accompanied by a live band for the majority of the night, including two guitarists, a keyboardist, bassist, and an incredible drummer. When the band members weren't needed, they relaxed and drank on the left side of the stage, where a couch was perched a few feet in the air. A couple of random girls sat at the couch for the entire night for no apparent reason.
"Crawl," "Worldstar," and "The Worst Guys" kept the crowd captivated, but it soon became clear Gambino would be playing Because the Internet from start to finish, including drawn-out interludes and slow, falsetto-ridden songs. A third of the way into his set, audience members were chatting, wandering around, and checking Facebook. By the middle of the album, the songs had completely blurred together and not even "3005" could reawaken the crowd.
Gambino had a likeable stage presence but didn't make any efforts to engage the audience until the end of the set, except for once when he referred to Maplewood (where Myth is located) as St. Paul. The sound was perfect, especially with the live band, but the show felt impersonal, almost too rehearsed. It wasn't necessarily Gambino's fault -- he remained astonishingly energetic throughout the night -- but the album isn't meant to played from start to finish in a club setting. The slower songs are fine for getting high and contemplating outer space, but the run through wasn't enough to keep the crowd captivated. That said, it was a blast to watch Gambino dance like a jumping bean in short shorts having a one-man mosh pit.
Photos by Erik Hess
Gambino left the stage after playing through Because the Internet and returned for an encore that should have come much sooner. The back screen transitioned from the mansion to an outdoor fire pit, suggesting Gambino would play hits off his first full-length album, Camp. He delivered.
After the slow, sexy track, "So Fly," Gambino finally addressed the crowd. "I don't really feel like you guys are moving. Can we do some shit that gets you moving?" he asked. The bass started thumping, the audience started moving, and Gambino successfully redeemed himself.
The night encore with a lengthy freestyle, complete with Vikings and Minnesota winter references. It felt too polished for us to believe that it was made up on the spot, but who knows. Maybe the kid deserves a little more credit.
Playing Around Before The Party
I. The Worst Guys
I. The Party
Death by Numbers
I. Flight of the Navigator
II. Zealots of Stockholm (Free Information)
III. Telegraph Ave.
I. Pink Toes
II. Earth: The Oldest Computer (The Last Night)
Do Ya Like
Freaks and Geeks
Personal bias: I hate Community with a flaming passion, but I'm a fan of Gambino's lyrics.
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