Le1f at Star Theater

| Friday, March 4, 2016

By the time the show was over, the biggest thought in my head was "What the fuck is this crowd."

That is to say, there wasn't much of one, and although enough fans were there to make significant noise, there were many more that just stood there uncomfortable or bored or simply unsure of where the hell they landed on earth that day when they woke up. I don't blame Le1f for not coming out for an encore. And I don't even blame him for not speaking to any of the leftover sprinkle of fans except for the one black woman leaning up to the stage, when he came back out for his equipment 5 minutes after the last encore cheers ended and the slice of a crowd had evaporated. It may not have been on purpose, but I also don't think it's a coincidence. They had a short but engaged conversation that ended with her bowing towards his feet with both of her hands and him walking away laughing at her flattery. That was good. I wish I could have said hi and conveyed my respect as well, but I understand it might not be the same.

I know Portland is lily white, and I know there's been tension with (what little there is of) hip hop in Portland. But I thought Portland had a pretty big queer community? And alright, if not that, then a pretty big general music loving community, LGBT allies and diversity allies? I guess queer hip hop is still niche.

To give the crowd credit, they showed up. The ones that stuck around, stuck around. And it was bumping pretty good during "Wut". But of course it should be! It's a catchy one. It's probably Le1f's most popular track. And look at all that talent and charisma and ugh.

But cmon, nobody else yelled out "goodbye man" the last two words of the verse part? Nobody else followed the chorus enough to help out with "wut it do, wut it don't"? Or the line "how many batty boys can you fit in a jeep" in Boom?

Le1f's got some weird music too, both new and old; there's more of the experimental than the banger in his new LP. Even the bangers are experimental. Sophie and Balam Acab aren't exactly mainstream sounds. But when Le1f steps down from the stage and into the crowd and tells you to rage, you fucking rage.

Leading up to the show, I noticed there weren't many people RSVP'ed to the Facebook event for it, and even as I was buying the single ticket for myself I was conflicted between taking others (straight and not terribly interested in Le1f) or keeping it a higher concentration of gay and supporting. In hindsight... though it crossed my mind that maybe I should have taken a crowd, I am not sure if it would have made a huge difference to have more uninterested people there. Though that is a slightly selfish way of thinking; I know how monetary and word of mouth support works. What it comes down to is, maybe we're just not ready for Le1f, for a variety of reasons. I imagine there's a tighter turnout in larger cities, especially closer to his home NYC and along the east coast. He'll keep making music and making waves. It's a niche that I hope keeps getting bigger and bigger. We may not be ready for it, but we need more of it.

It was unfortunate that the show started rocky, too, with the curtains not being open (hiding the lights behind it and limiting his space for dancing) and particularly his wireless mic cutting out before he walked off stage in the middle of a song to get that fixed. The opener was not a band, but it was a drag show. It might have worked better if there was an actual opening band. The drag show was fantastic, actually, but it was a different sort of energy. Even then, the host of the drag show was noticing that her mic cut off from time to time, which should have been a BIG clue for them to switch that out before the main show.

Back on the positive--aside from all that tension, his performance was great. The dancing, the voicing. He played the songs I anticipated hearing, and only left out one song I really like. He had a cool brown/asian backup dancer! They had some coordinated moves. He was poised, but engaging. I'm really glad that he hit Portland between Seattle and SF. He almost didn't, and I seriously considered the commute to Seattle for a few minutes. I hope this doesn't discourage him from skipping Portland in the future. We need this.