I first discovered Tom Misch in my junior year of high school while perusing through Soundcloud on a Saturday afternoon.
I remember it like it was yesterday — there I was in my newly purchased Keith Haring shirt from Uniqlo, sitting on my bed as I nonchalantly clicked on one of his tracks. After a few seconds into his classic bass guitar beat drop, I stood up, closed my room door and proceeded to dance, a memory that still makes me cringe on the inside.
I never would have thought that on a Tuesday October night in Baltimore, as a sophomore in college, I would be standing a few feet across from him, listening to live versions of “Watch Me Dance” and “Crazy Dream,” songs from his 2016 Reverie EP that made me fall in love with the now 23-year-old, London-based artist.
Misch’s U.S. tour comes several months after the release of his 2018 debut album, Geography. Before concluding his tour in New York City, he made a stop at Rams Head Live! on October 30, giving his first ever performance in Maryland.
Before heading over to the venue, I turned on my go-to playlist, giving all his songs one last pre-concert listen.
Geography is one of those albums that makes your head bob in all sorts of directions at different tempos. Perhaps the most impressionable part of the album is the first introductory track, “Before Paris,” where a nostalgic instrumental is overlapped by the lyrics, “Art is a mirror of society.”
From Paris, Tom then takes us to his home in south London in the upbeat track that all Misch fans undoubtedly know, “South of the River.” All of the tracks from his album take elements from jazz, soul, funk and occasional rap interludes from featured artists like GoldLink, De La Soul and Loyle Carner. By the middle of his album tracklist, we even get a Misch-like rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t she Lovely,” the 1970s classic.
The opener for Misch’s concert was taken over by Rob Araujo, once a biology major at Cornell University, now a Los Angeles based keyboardist, composer and producer who combines unexplainable chromatic jazz scales with crazy synth beats.
After the stage crew made some last minute adjustments, percussionist Junior Alli-Balogun, violinist Tobie Tripp, drummer Jamie Houghton, keyboard player Joe Price and bass guitarist James Rudi Creswick trickled out onto the stage.
With a loud roar from the crowd, Tom Misch finally walked out in the dark-blue lit stage, put his guitar strap over his shoulder and struck the first note of an anticipated track, “It Runs Through Me.” At various times throughout performance, Braxton Cook, a Maryland raised artist, walked out in a bright red letter jacket to accompany Tom with a saxophone solo.
After trying to get good shots of Tom, I quickly put my camera away to completely immerse myself in his music, sometimes choosing to look down, watching the knees of surrounding audience members bending to the funky rhythms. Instead of telling you about each song in detail, I’m instead going to encourage you to go check out his album on Spotify — his most popular song boasts over 27 million streams and is well worth a listen.
If you find yourself with the need for more of Tom, you can also find him all over Youtube, most notably his popular features on NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert and the trendy music channel under Colors Studio.
And to really appreciate the work that he puts in when creating his masterpieces, you can tune in on a Rhythm Roulette episode from Mass Appeal media, where he randomly chooses a few vinyl records and mixes them in his own style. My favorite video of him, by far, would have to be his “Against the Clock” feature, which is an eleven-minute clip of him doing what he does best — sitting down in his small studio setup, making beats on Logic Pro on his desktop.
While I went to the Tom Misch concert alone, I came back with new friends, coincidentally meeting another Hopkins student as well as another Tom Misch fan all the way from Virginia.
For the first time, I was able to comprehend what it means for music to act as a community builder. I personally saw the effects of bringing strangers into one room, singing along to the same songs and listening to the voice of an artist who came from a place 3628 miles away.