The Spring Fair concert was destined to be a failure. The artist reveal disappointed people, and there were rumors of a heavy underselling of tickets. All around campus you could feel this general disinterest. Days before the concert, tickets were being sold for less than half of the original value.
The very first part of the concert only confirmed my suspicion that this would be a terrible event. In the very beginning, a DJ halfheartedly spun records to an almost empty Rams Head Live! while 10 guys in the audience drunkenly moshed. The atmosphere was dead. I fully expected for both Earl and Krewella to peek from backstage, take stock of the situation and leave. I wouldn’t have blamed them.
To my surprise though, after a couple minutes of silence following the DJ, Earl finally stumbled onto stage, looking characteristically tired, with a full head of bushy dreads and squinting eyes. He was wearing one of the most comfortable outfits I’ve ever seen: beat up Air Force One lows and puffy, XL techwear. He grabbed the mic and yelled out the funniest statement of the night: “What’s up college!” Throughout the show, he kept referring to the crowd as college, a funny indication of how much he cared about who he was performing to.
Earl’s set might be one of the best performances to be completely overlooked by the audience. Let me paint the picture: Over two hundred drunk college students have just left either the Beer Garden or some other pregame to experience this Spring Fair concert. They are rowdy, sweaty, loud and generally excited. They come to the venue, expectations high, only to see a quiet, dread-headed rapper explain his dark, deep-rooted depression over grimy, experimental beats.
You can imagine the almost comedic disconnect here. For most of the set, the crowd stood absolutely still. You could hear people’s phones (and Juuls) drop.
Nonetheless, ignoring the horrible energy coming from the crowd, Earl performed his heart out, making this by far one of the best rap shows I’ve ever been to. Wandering back and forth across the stage, Earl rapped his lyrics flawlessly, offering the same pained, powerful delivery from his recordings.
The way that Earl makes lyrics flow together is even more impressive live. It feels like watching a juggler throw around a hundred balls. His flow is so dynamic and complex that it is exciting to watch him tie the lines together. The alliteration and the rhyme schemes are all top-notch. Most impressively though, Earl somehow manages to infuse his lyrics with an equal amount of desolation, braggadocio and humor.
Besides just doing the expected pieces, Earl decided to perform a bunch of unreleased music, each song more beautiful than the last. The beat selection was crazy. Earl went from a Just-Blaze-type gospel sample beat with no drum, to a beat that was just a kick and a scream — something you would expect either Death Grips or JpegMafia to run over.
Earl rapped with ease; this show only made me itch for the CD-quality versions to be released. Finally, just as unassumingly as he appeared, Earl threw up a peace sign and wandered off the stage. To the Earl fans in the crowd, this was a spiritual experience. I felt like I had seen something important.
With Earl gone, there was an uncomfortable silence. This was broken by a booming riser. I could see two women doing an involved handshake just behind the edge of the stage. Suddenly, brimming with energy, they jumped behind the turntables as smoke poured out and lights flashed in bright letters: “Krewella.”
To most people, this is where the true Spring Fair concert began. As Krewella’s bubblegum dubstep and light EDM began to pound over the speakers, the crowd began to jump and scream, feeling the energy they were waiting for.
Krewella’s music is fast, loud and very full. Each track had what felt like millions of sounds, pulsating in rhythm. Voiced hooks would be supported by bright synth lines, booming kicks and that trademark pulsating bass that got worldwide popularity about five years ago.
Krewella worked the crowd perfectly. They replaced Earl’s slow, ironic hilarity with hype that played to the audience perfectly. The two members would switch roles: While one mixed the tracks on the upper stage, the other would wander around either mouthing the words of the track and head-banging or just dancing in the center of the stage. The energy got so wild that halfway into the set, one of the front speakers was kicked over.
Their mixing was impeccable. No one could expect what was coming next — it would alternate between the classic 4/4 EDM drop and a more dubstep inspired “wubwubby” release of tension. In either case, the crowd would go crazy, jumping faster and faster.
While being completely disjointed and unexpected, somehow this Spring Fair concert was a great success. The awkwardness of the pairing and the overall awkwardness of the crowd did not impact either performance at all. To those that didn’t go, you missed both one of the best rap performances I’ve seen and a great dance party led by Krewella.