Approaching The Rave Sunday night for the sold-out Tyler, The Creator show, there was a constant flow of twenty-somethings making their way inside. Police were forced to shut down the block behind the venue in order to guide the flow. The constant river of people lead up the steps to the security check and then into a packed Eagle’s Ballroom. Even with the balconies open to the general public, the main floor was almost entirely taken up by a solid mass of people.
The stage contained a setup of roughly 60 monitors that displayed a countdown across them. When the countdown hit zero, the music kicked in. The bass-y electronic beats arose as Vince Staples emerged onto the stage. The initial beat was a high energy banger, putting the crowd into a frenzy. They danced a limp handed pogo similar to the popular dance move at the recent Steve Aoki show.
Besides the video monitors at the back and a few lights on the side, the stage was clear. The image was stunning. The uncluttered minimalism of the stage combined with the low-end electronic pulsing beats to create a feeling of isolation. Staples, clad in a black T-shirt, worked the entire stage effortlessly. With that much space and vulnerability, you have to be a master of your craft to pull it off. As he went to work, the heavy beats bumped at a level you could feel in your chest. With such a large room it can be hard to bring out the physicality of the music, but on this night, The Rave had the soundboard dialed in perfectly. Staples kept the energy high throughout and gave the crowd a focused and visually captivating set. As he announced that it was the last night of tour, it seemed so obvious: From night after night of honing his set, Staples was at the top of his game.
As the crew scurried to remove the dozen monitor/lighting racks from the stage one by one, the half hour change-over seemed like tight window. It’s an immense undertaking to do on a nightly basis, but the crew made it look almost easy. In fact, 10 minutes later, the stage was clear.
Right on schedule, the music kicked back in and lights projected onto the black stage curtain. After a short musical intro, the curtain raised to reveal an extravagant stage setup. With large trees and a giant cliff in the center of the stage it looked like a physical realization of The Land Before Time. Tyler, The Creator stood hunched atop the cliff, back to the crowd. As he broke into song, the audience let out swelling screams. He made his way down the cliff and to the front of the stage. Throughout the set he would address the crowd and it never felt as if he was addressing hundreds. The way he spoke gave off the confidence of speaking casually to a quaint gathering of people. At one point he began counting the number of African-Americans that he could see in the crowd. He almost seemed perplexed by the whiteness of his own audience.
As Tyler rolled through his set, the stragglers of the audience danced awkwardly in their worm-y, all-limbs sort of way. The beats had a more funky groove than Staples’ electro pulses. It set a different groove for the set. The energy was there, but it wasn’t an in-your-face raging energy. Tyler’s set was more of an oozing flow—constantly moving at a consistent pace. There were times that he’d put his raspy bark on display, but more often it was a steady talk-y flow. Regardless of his approach and song choice, the crowd seemed to know the words to every song and were always ready to take the lead and sing en masse.