By Setota Hailemariam
It’s easy to spot an Internet kid when you see one in real life. Taking heed from trends on Twitter or Tumblr, they all have the same cuffed baggy jeans, some quirky oversized shirt and a pair of worn-in Vans.
That was the sight in line on March 9 for 20-year-old indie rapper Kevin Abstract’s show at Songbyrd Music House in D.C. The fans, most of whom were teens or college-aged, had another thing in common, though: they all idolized Abstract.
Remarks while waiting for doors to open ranged from “he’s such a cutie on Twitter” to speculation about where exactly he would be meeting fans after the show. It was clear meeting him meant just as much to everyone as seeing him perform. But until that could happen, the show was the priority — the rise in excitement as people were finally let in was undeniable.
One of Abstract’s producer’s, Romil, came out and DJ’d for a bit, which was a smart choice. It let the crowd get hyped up by tracks they were already familiar with and was more effective than an unrecognizable opener’s set.
After a frenzied singalong to Kanye’s “Mercy” and SoundCloud favorite XXXtentacion’s “Look at Me,” the audience was more than ready for a great night and exploded into deafening cheers when Abstract barrelled onto the stage and launched straight into his song “Blink.”
“This show is so intimate, I can like touch you,” he observed a few songs in. That intimacy allowed him to interact directly with the crowd, packed tightly against the stage, as they recited every word of his back to him.
Two highlights of the night were his high-energy performances of “Yellow” and “Empty” off of his latest release, “American Boyfriend: a Suburban Love Story.” Everyone screamed the lyrics with such conviction, it was as if they had written the acoustic pop-rap songs themselves. Abstract pointed his mic at the crowd and looked on with pride.
Explosive moments of the show were interwoven with melancholy ones; the transition between a mosh pit during the number, “Bet I” and sympathetic attention to Abstract’s brutally honest confession, “the hardest part of my day is wishing I was f****** straight,” in the song “Papercut” was particularly seamless.
This was definitely a show for diehard fans. Usually, when an artist performs an older song at a show promoting a new album, it isn’t met with too much enthusiasm. Abstract’s fans, however, were the exception. They erupted as he rapped “27,” a track on his first record, “MTV1987,” and “Timeless,” a song not even available on iTunes. Even the stage decorations, including a mannequin wearing a helmet with an American flag draped over it, were a nod to his mascot of sorts, “Helmet Boy,” something casual fans wouldn’t pick up on.
Their dedication didn’t go unnoticed, as Abstract’s tour manager, Jon Nunes, 24, can vouch.
“We’ve never been [in D.C.] before, so to see this turnout is insane … a sold out show in such an intimate venue like this, it’s crazy,” Nunes said. “The fact that everybody here is for us and no one else.”
As the night was winding down, Abstract dramatically shushed the crowd for a moment. For once, everything was still. He then burst the silence with the opening lines of “Miserable America,” a standout track from “American Boyfriend”: “My boyfriend saved me, my mother’s homophobic / I’m stuck in the closet, I’m so claustrophobic.”
For a few blissful minutes, everyone was united in chanting the painfully relatable anthem about not caring whether you fit in, a song the crowd could find comfort in.
When asked after the show about what it’s like knowing that his work has such an impact on people, Abstract replied simply: “It makes me feel more confident about the feelings I’m actually feeling at home … it inspires me to keep making music.”
Abstract’s unique spin on rap and all-too-relatable lyrics are game changers. It’s no wonder his fanbase is so devoted. Finding songs you can hear yourself in will truly change your life, and creating them is what he does best.
Featured Photo Credit: Kevin Abstract performs at Songbyrd. (Gabe Fernandez/Bloc Reporter)
Setota Hailemariam is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.