There might not have been a riot situation or a parade through Boulder, but Earl Sweatshirt needed to do little to incite constant stage diving, mosh pits and even fights during his Fox Theatre show on Tuesday. He is a member of Odd Future, after all. But even as a part of the notorious hip-hop collective, the party atmosphere at the all ages show was somewhat surprising, given Earl’s weighty, lo-fi beats and lazy bass lines.
Long before Earl took the stage at about 9:30 p.m. with no opening act, the kids were chanting his name and bouncing to the house music. Earl Sweatshirt’s entrance to his first Colorado headlining show had little bravado and even seemed somewhat humble, considering his current buzz status. Wearing his namesake with the hood up, he greeted the audience and jumped right into it. But, soon enough, only two songs in a girl had already hopped on stage and was quickly shoved off by a bouncer. And Earl gave her a rational scolding, “Don’t f*** this up for the rest of us.”
As the guy known for his year-long disappearance after dropping the mixtape “Earl,” the rapper certainly knows how to build anticipation. On Tuesday he played about five older and mixtape cuts before asking the audience if they wanted to hear anything from “Doris,” his studio debut, which came out in late August. It was a professional build and as Earl kicked into “Molasses,” the 19-year-old already had the crowd under his control, chanting his freckled hook on command.
His stage consisted of a simple backdrop with “Doris” written in what looked like a child’s finger paint. Only Earl, Vince Staples, his DJ Taco and the occasional fan ran around on stage. Earl and Vince rapped over pre-recorded tracks, which was unfortunate, especially with the microphone problems that muddled the words. While Earl stayed with the track for the most part, Vince fell behind on his verse on “Hive.” Earl’s production leans toward the low-end, which got lost on Tuesday at the Fox.
With sound problems aside, the real takeaway from the show was seeing Earl’s persona live on stage. He’s barely an adult who got his start with Odd Future in 2009, but at the same time writes developed rhymes with the poise of an older person. Sure he would do things like urge the crowd to go crazy before the intense piano build of “Orange Juice” or chase his buddies around stage, but he also attempted to stop a fight after playing his track “Earl.” It’s almost as if he’s distancing himself from the snot nosed mayhem of Odd Future, while his young fans thrive on such behavior.
What’s funny, though, was when Earl Sweatshirt would get to one of his long diary entry verses. On “Chum,” among the grinding and circles of people shoving each other to the ground, the crowd stopped and in perfect unison rapped the lines, “It’s probably been 12 years since my father left — left me fatherless. And I just used to say I hate him in dishonest jest, when honestly I miss this n****, like when I was six. And every time I got the chance to say it I would swallow it.” That’s some pretty heavy stuff to sing at a party.
Dylan Langille is a Fort Collins-based photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb. See more of his photos here.