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Earl Sweatshirt at Fine Line, 10/15/13

Earl Sweatshirt at Fine Line, 10/15/13
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen

Earl Sweatshirt

with Vince Staples
Fine Line Music Cafe, Minneapolis
October 14, 2013

Earl Sweatshirt is free and touring behind his second album, Doris. Vince Staples played hype man and injected his own songs into Earl's set at the Fine Line last night, as Odd Future's Taco played DJ and the young crowd went batshit. 

The Fine Line was packed and swarming with security, who kept the floor crowd stationed behind lines on the floor and drinkers on the balcony. Lil B, Drake, and Action Bronson cycled through the PA as the sold-out crowd eagerly waited for something to happen. In the two hours or so since doors, there were multiple moments when the audience began to cheer because maybe they saw a guy in a bucket hat or maybe the stage lights adjusted, but it wasn't until Taco hit the stage with Crime Mob's classic "Knuck If You Buck" that the show really got started.
Earl Sweatshirt at Fine Line, 10/15/13


Earl Sweatshirt at Fine Line, 10/15/13
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen

The spry audience had been waiting for the moment to unleash their pent-up energy. Odd Future's mixture of skate-punk lack of fucks and underground hip-hop grit brings out a unique type of rap-show energy, and Taco cycled through some hard-hitting club joints to a crunk-infused mosh pit of sweaty kids who encouraged shoving while turning up. The balcony was certainly less chaotic but lost quite a bit of the show's vibe. Taco's great moment of DJ fuck-you came when playing the intro to Kendrick Lamar's "m.A.A.d. city" before switching immediately into Kanye's "New Slaves" before the drums even hit. Mostly he spent his short solo moment mouthing lyrics and bouncing near the ecstatic audience, many of whom desperately tried to reach out and touch him.


When Earl finally hit the stage with Vince Staples, he jumped right into a pair of throwback tracks from his debut, Earl. In front of a finger-painted banner and a giant inflatable Earl head, the 19-year-old quickly showcased why he generated such excitement when his first mixtape dropped in 2010. His technical mastery belied his age, and his grasp of affecting wordplay had an unprecedented way of riling the mind.

His latest since returning to music buffed some of the rough edges and moved away from shock tactics in lyrics, but kept much of the wordy flow and the personal undertones. The fans have clearly followed since the beginning, and nearly everyone knew words to tracks no matter which album they came from. They seemed generally familiar with Vince Staples's material as well, which was sprinkled in between Earl's songs at certain points in the set. It was a compact way of putting on both artists and still making the show move quickly.

 


Earl retains a very human sense of stage awkwardness, taking long pauses between tracks to bullshit and engage the audience. Sometimes he'd ask people to get as loud as they could, others he'd tell them to not make any noise. He garnered the kind of rabid fan attention that almost precludes having to do much work onstage, but his rhyming stayed impeccable and his sense of humor kept things playful and raucous. Vince Staples proved himself a vibrant performer, elevating his laid-back street talk to a menacing register whether riding a beat or spitting a capella.
Earl Sweatshirt at Fine Line, 10/15/13


Earl Sweatshirt at Fine Line, 10/15/13
Photos by Anna Gulbrandsen

The pair played off each other well throughout the night, avoiding the especially controversial "Epar" that began their work together and instead owning the sleeper hit "Hive," which sounded huge. Earl's work is far less violent these days, but he mostly didn't shy away from returning to his raw, unfiltered early material. He hit the highlights of Doris in the center of his set, bringing out older material more toward the bookends. He asked the audience "Knock Knock?" to introduce the thumping bass drums that introduce "Earl," which made his first real impact and essentially ushered in the Odd Future movement. 


The crowd had been hype consistently but must have gotten their second wind toward the set's end, and plenty of people were hanging over the balcony pumping their fists wildly along with the moshing and crowd-surfing hordes below. Teasing the tag that introduces "Drop," he promised to continue to play the first four seconds unless certain sections made as much noise as they possibly could. After everyone tested out their level, the drums finally dropped once everyone in the place went insane enough to warrant continuing. It was a great way to end the night -- on one of his biggest hits that recalled the jacking-for-beats basement studio early days as a snotty teen who happened to be remarkably talented. He's arrived as a full-fledged star but retained that attitude, honed that skill, and proved his mettle.

Personal Bias: My Odd Future fandom has waned some since the early excitement I had for them, but Earl will always remain my personal favorite from the camp. 

The Crowd: Mostly young, but remarkably diverse. Lots of females in the front row. 

Overheard in the Crowd: "That's real," in response to Taco's declaration that Minnesota has "the most 8 out of 10 girls of anywhere. That's good though, because 10's don't suck dick!"

Setlist:

Kill
Blade
Back Sellin' Crack (Vince Staples)
Molasses
Sunday
Centurion
Til You Show Up Where They Live (Vince Staples)
Orange Juice
Pre
Chum
Whoa
Burgundy
Hive
Versace Rap (Vince Staples)
102 (Vince Staples)
Outro (Vince Staples)
20 Wave Caps
Couch
Earl

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