Earl Sweatshirt Hosts Hometown “Christmas Function”
To those of you who are not familiar with Earl Sweatshirt, he is a member of the robust rap group Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (OFWGKTA), best known for the group’s founder and acclaimed leader, Tyler, The Creator. The rap group that originated in Los Angeles drew some of the city’s best young talent from LA high schools while we (current university students) were high schoolers as well. This might be one of the most delayed concert reviews, but I feel like anything related to Odd Future members, particularly Earl Sweatshirt, is always worth talking about. On December 23, Vince Staples and Earl Sweatshirt took the stage at the Observatory. Keeping in mind the lackluster experience we had at Flume’s show at the same venue just a few months prior, my friend and I retired to the balcony to avoid the crowd (more on this later).
The night began with Long Beach native Vince Staples’ set. Speaking over the roaring crowd as he entered stage, Vince went on about his excitement towards performing at home, reminding everyone that he grew up just “down the street.” The opening set managed to hit a wealth of emotions. Some of the earlier songs left Vince prepping for them by talking about his mother’s battle with cancer or a friend of his who was shot at the young age of 15. By the end of his set, however, he had the crowd jumping up and down with him to the hit “Blue Suede”, as he and his backing entourage threw themselves into the crowd. He eventually remained on the stage, however, concluding his set by pulling an eager fan up onto stage with him by the shoulders.
Earl’s set followed the model of hitting a wide array of emotions, but his were a bit more dispersed throughout his set. Going into the show, the vast majority of Earl Sweatshirt fans, my friend and myself included, did not expect him to perform hit “Chum,” so it came as no surprise when his set began and ended, and the song’s iconic beat never began for him to rap over. If you listen to the first 15 seconds of Earl’s “Whoa” alone, however, you would understand not to expect “Chum” on the setlist.
Instead, he spent his entire set trying to separate himself from his older, slower songs that he seemed to associate with his period of depression just a few years prior. The past few years have served host to Earl’s attempt to remove himself from his previous battles with depression and hardship, particularly one of his more iconic periods where he was removed from the music scene entirely—thus prompting Odd Future’s well-known “Free Earl” campaign. The introduction to his song “Burgundy”, and the entire song in general, summed up those sentiments and that period of his life well.
As such, he spent his set beginning slower, more emotional songs, stopping halfway through, then announcing that he was going to sing a new song instead before breaking out into a more aggressive, upbeat piece. At one point, he stopped in the middle of “Sunday”, stared squarely at the crowd, and said, “you should have seen all of your faces while I sang that song.” He wanted the crowd to be raucous and engaged, so he dubbed the show a “Christmas function” and stuck to his more rowdy pieces.
The rest of his set consisted of a slew of “intermissions” during which Earl handed the reigns over to his DJ, dancing along to whatever he put on with the rest of his entourage. Along with the rest of his group, Earl crowd surfed throughout the show, took several basketball breaks, and made sure to drop the phrase “Ball is life” at least eight times over the course of the set.
The show concluded with Earl pulling a fan up on stage who explained to the crowd that someone stole his chain. After pinpointing the thief, the man jumped back into the crowd, and a full fledge brawl that got the police involved ensued. I’m still not sure if they were completely done with the show before it was seemingly ended at the hands of the fans, but I was glad I was posted in the venue’s balcony at a GA concert for the first time. Regardless, it made for a climactic but unpleasant ending to an otherwise quality concert.