As soon as I stepped in the door of the House of Blues, the body heat of my fellow concert goers clung to my skin. It was a strange, welcoming feeling, growing stronger as we weaved in and out of the crowd- trying to get as close to the stage as we could without seriously pissing someone off. I surveyed my neighbours, gauging the ocean teeming with adrenaline-saturated anticipation. The House of Blues is a notoriously “no-bullshit” establishment, which led me to believe that whoever had booked the show had absolutely no idea what they were in for, given the nature of Travis $cott’s past shows. If you’re familiar with the no-rules, every-man-for-himself, survival-of-the-fittest kind of hype La Flame’s shows are famous for, you know that it wasn’t crazy to worry about the show getting shut down a few minutes in.
A minute or two after settling into the sea of Nike dri-fit baseball caps, Bryson Tiller, aka Pen Griffey, hits the stage. I personally wasn’t too familiar with his work, but by the crowd’s reaction to his entrance I could tell that this was a fatal mistake on my own part. After releasing his debut album TRAPSOUL he has received increasingly more attention from the public and other recording artists alike. With his airy vocals crooning over dreamy beats that featured hi-hat and 808 combinations quintessential of the Trap genre, the album title is definitely fitting.
I wasn’t expecting anything crazy from Tiller. It’s not that I don’t dig his sound, but as a frequent concert attendee, I’ve learned that an artist with slower, more melodic tracks and less performance experience usually equates to a mild to moderate turn-up. My prediction wasn’t too far off, although I was genuinely impressed by how great of a voice he had. There was no denying that he had a mesmerising effect on many of the ladies, setting fire to their ovaries as he serenaded the room. Admittedly, I wasn’t familiar with any of the material he performed besides his closing song “Don’t,” which is by far the most popular track off the album, with a solid 25-million plus plays on Spotify. This aside, Tiller kept me on my toes, my energy never waiving during his set, and that was a notable quality of his performance.
After a group moment spent dreaming of what could have been, the DJ began spinning and the voids in our hearts were replaced by the sounds of familiar trappers like Future and Thugger. You can only imagine the reaction as he segued into a Rodeo track and La Flame came thrashing out from backstage. I’m not a big mosh-pit enthusiast because it has always proved to end in multiple elbows to the face at best. However, I had been mentally preparing myself for this moment since October, knowing that I wouldn’t really have a choice. A good minute into his opening song I had successfully adopted a technique of defensive-moshing, which served as my means of survival for the remainder of the show.
You can probably tell I had incredibly high expectations for Travis, which can be a dangerous thing going into a show, but he fucking delivered. Whether it was meticulously planned or not, the set had a seemingly strategic quality to it. It was a perfect concoction of his extremely well-received second mixtape, Days Before Rodeo, released in July of 2014, and his debut album, Rodeo, put out early this September. Tracks from each project were interspersed throughout his performance in a way that allowed him to fully capitalise on the crowd’s energy. Well-known singles like “Antidote” and “3500” off Rodeo were performed alongside less widely recognised tracks, such as “Quintana Pt. 2” off Days Before.
Of all songs, “Antidote” was clearly the crowd favourite. As the beat crept up on us, Travis announced that “I see y’all in the back. Now I want to see you swinging off the balconies. I’m here for the kids tonight.” This cued the hook, which had everyone yelling along as loud as they were physically able. Up until the moment the beat dropped, I didn’t think it was possible to simultaneously fear for your life and have an absolutely thrilling time. A more personal highlight, was when he did “Drugs You Should Try It,” from Days Before. The song that I would tell you to listen to if you had never heard of Travis, and the song that, for me, confirms his genius. It is the one song on mixtape that is drastically different from the rest. Slow and melodic, it is prime evidence that Travis is confident in his sound, but is both able and unafraid of creating stirring the pot once in a while. Not to mention that it displays his mastery of voice manipulation, something which many artists are unable to do as successfully, embracing the fact that he’s not the most naturally gifted of singers and using that to his advantage. If you’ve ever had the chance to see one of your favourite artists perform one of your favourite songs, and do so with talent, you know that it’s a sacred experience.
As a final hurrah, Travis did “Apple Pie.” It was a fitting choice, seeing as it’s also the last official track on Rodeo, but it all ended far too soon as he rushed off the stage right as the last lyric left his mouth. It was like a break-up I hadn’t seen coming: closure-less. No hard feelings though, Travis had another show almost immediately afterwards, and had beyond exceeded my expectations. It would have been too greedy of me to have asked for a better show.