Photography courtesy of Andrew Saputo; review written by Seth Thompson.
On a cool autumn weekday, my friend invites me to come along for an RL Grime’s “NOVA Tour” concert. Having barelyÂ heard of this DJ, I throw myself at the chance. I usually do my homework on bands ahead of time, so I pop in my headphones while driving and listen to a few tracks. Quick, punchy rhythms emanate from my cheap earbuds. I assume this is one of those EDM shows my younger school colleaguesÂ rave about. Iâ€™m curious, but not particularlyÂ optimistic.Â
Iâ€™m suited up in my standard northwest plaid button-down with jeans and worn-out Chucks. I find a parking spot and stroll towards The McDonald Theatre in downtown Eugene, Oregon. I meet my friend outside the venue and instantly know this concert is more than I prepped for. A young 20 something walks past, pant-less with a mesh shirt and tape over her nipples.
We walk in the venue to Graves blasting heavy beats and hard-pounding percussions. Teenagers in glittery neon clothing brush their half-naked bodies against my neatly pressed wool shirt. We wallow in the back contemplating our choice of attire, then take a breath and begin to weave through the sweat ladened bodies.
The music is hypnotic and pulsating. Your desire builds to be close to the stage. The DJ raises his hand, fist clenched with one finger pointing to the ceiling. Seconds pass as the interlude builds. The audience roars in anticipation. Then, silence. The man on the stage throws his hand to the floor. The climax arrives with a massive explosion that rolls through my body. I realize Iâ€™m witnessing something special; something new. I was initially startled by the raucous, unbridled energy. Now I understand why these kids are here. This music is tangible in a very different way than the rock shows Iâ€™m use to attending.
As Graves finishes their set of three DJs, including Chris from Honolulu, the rush for the bathroom begins. The experience is similar to witnessing a fire at a fraternity house during a 90s dance party. I dodge glossy-eyed, glistening masses streaming past me. We move upstairs to the bar for a drink before heading back for the main event.
As RL Grime takes the stage, the place goes bonkers. He throws down a rapid bassline and bobs his head to the high powered rises and drops. Iâ€™m alone as my buddy tries to get his images. I find myself mirroring heads around me with each revolving chorus. The beats build and release. The crowd jumps and lurches as one.
Henry (AKA RL Grime) pauses, raising the microphone to ask, â€śhow are you doing Eugene?â€ť The crowd loses their sh*t, reacting as if he has just gifted them a million dollars. He looks to be genuinely enjoying himself, revving up the BPMs to 170.
My friend finishes up front and we meander backwards, just as Drakeâ€™s voice breaks through. CO2 cannons blast overhead, reigniting the crowd into a frenzy. A new smoke also rises in the air. Weed is legal in Oregon. Streams of exhale escape upwards like little steam engines around the stage.
Songs begin to blend into one another; cascading between tribal house mixed with Hip Hop, Grime and Trap. We decide the time is nigh to call it a night; sidestepping crying, confused teenagers. Guys in overalls and basketball jerseys pace the perimeter with hands held high. Girls with streaming mascara and wobbly knees try desperately to stay upright. The party is clearly still alive, but many have overindulged. Itâ€™s easy to look around and wonder what has become of youth. With a chuckle, I realize how closely I once resembled these kids, reckless and starving for stimulation. â€śTheyâ€™re living life in the moment,â€ť I say with a smile. â€śMore power to them.â€ť I stop and wave to Henry; wishing him luck in all of his endeavors. Though I was first nervous and even uneasy, Iâ€™m glad I went. I step out into the crisp October air and think to myself, â€śI need another beer.â€ť