Live Music Fix: Childish Gambino

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Two words: religious experience

My criteria for an awesome concert:

1) The person on stage is the epitome of cool, at least in my opinion.

2) It’s basically a large-scale sing-along.

3) I smile. A lot.

20140428-154907.jpgGambino hits on all three and then some. His commitment to the performance — the way his face contorts, eyes widen, and forehead wrinkles, resembling an exorcism scene out of an indie horror flick — should be terrifying, but, no, it’s captivating. Being sandwiched between strangers, bodies literally pressed up against each other from every direction, sweat mingling, heat sharing, as giant speakers launch a full assault on the eardrums, is the best kind of sensory overload. It’s exhilarating. I love a good mosh pit, but Gambino in concert is more than the average concert-going experience. It’s deeper.

I’ve always been a Childish Gambino fan. I have most of his music, including Culdesac and Sick Boi tracks. I’ve been a fan of Donald Glover throughout his run as Community’s Troy Barnes and back when he was writing jokes on 30 Rock. Gambino on shuffle is what gets me through the workweek, mumbling lyrics under my breath during particularly uneventful hours. As a writer, I appreciate Bino’s clever, amusing choice of words and as a music fan I enjoy his flow and when he hits those high notes. So when Bino tweets that he’s doing a pop-up show in Hawaii on my birthday weekend there’s nowhere I’d rather be.

The concert experience outweighs the quality of sound. If you judge live music on how closely it matches the studio album, you’re better off listening to vinyl alone in your bedroom. The audience at the concert is loud and rowdy, overpowering Bino at times and I’m surprisingly okay with that. It feels like we’ve gathered for something greater than merely listening. Live music is messy and spontaneous and far from the mechanical perfection of a jukebox or an iPod.

Bino is real, living, breathing on stage. We are real, living, breathing faces in a crowd. We jump, thrash, sing, and rap along with Bino and to Bino. I can’t even imagine what it must feel like to stand in front of a sold out crowd, a sea of sweat-drenched faces that have your lyrics committed to memory. Bino and the band feed off our energy and we feed off theirs, forging a symbiotic relationship and searching for the kind of high only accessed through music.

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One of the biggest things that left a lasting impression on me beyond the music and the experience is the honesty, when Bino tells us that his biggest fear is disappointing us — his fans. And if he ever does disappoint us he hopes we understand he’s just a man. The fact that he sings the last part is icing on the cake that spells out  “Roscoe’s wetsuit.” That moment of vulnerability pushes this concert experience over the edge and transforms it into something more and unexpected and refreshing.

I’ve been to concerts before. I know the formula:

Play songs from current album + play throwbacks because everyone loves a little nostalgia + fake walk off + encore (Plus a little teasing interaction between the artists and the audience if you’re lucky)

I thought I knew what to expect and that’s why this moment caught me off-guard. Bino chooses to be open with his audience as if he’s giving a piece of himself to each of us in person. We can hold on to this memory, seeing behind Childish Gambino’s artistry and antics, beyond Donald Glover’s IMDB and the jokes he writes, to the core of who he is. Most people have trouble sharing what makes them human with the people closest to them and Bino left it all on the stage for a sold out show to see.

There’s so much I love about this concert, so much that makes the four-hour wait worth it, so much that I managed to ignore the guy behind me bragging about going to Coachella. I love the mix of Because the Internet, CAMP and his other throwbacks. I love singing along and shouting every lyric till my lungs burn. I love the bruise on my forearm from being smashed against the metal barricade at the foot of the stage. I love Bino, but everyone says that. Mostly, I appreciate his effort, how he puts in a tremendous amount of work in order to give his fans everything he can and I respect him for all of the above.

20140428-154921.jpgThere’s something so freeing about live music. For an hour and a half or however long the set lasts, I don’t have to be me, I don’t have to be anyone. I don’t have to care that I’m sweating profusely or that I’m covered in other people’s sweat or about my ruined makeup. I don’t have to care that I have responsibilities outside of this venue. I don’t have to care about anything before or beyond this moment. I feel connected with Bino, with his music and lyrics, with everyone around me. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more alive, more accepted or more apart of something greater than myself — especially not in any official “public places of worship.”

Childish Gambino is all about what’s “deeper than rap” so it only makes sense that his performance is more than just an ordinary concert and something so profound. I can go on and on, but still fail to fully explain the way that night affected me. It’s been a little over a week and my thoughts still drift back to that night and it’s still all I ever want to talk about. I am content. I am concert-starved no more.


Check out Childish Gambino’s website:  & Twitter

Once you fall in love with Because the Internet, fall even deeper into the companion screenplay: http://becausetheinter.net/  (It’s great. Reading it made me want to stop writing commercial and go back to writing all the weird surrealist scripts I wrote in college.)

Pictures courtesy of my sweaty iPhone & my designated driver

R O S C O E ‘ S    W E T S U I T

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