This is not for the light of heart or those prone to the most contagious disease known as jealousy. After all Drake did tell us jealousy is just love and hate at the same time. If you didn’t make it to Childish Gambino’s Deep Web Tour I simultaneously pity you and am happy for myself as I get to tell you about it first hand. I may have lacked the vertical to get a birds eye view of good ole Donald but the show was nothing short of creative genius no matter where you were at the concert.
The pre- DJ spun anthem after anthem as the stage screen lit up by those informed enough to use the Deep Web App. This was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The app could be downloaded onto any smartphone but could only be used if the location your GPS found you at matched the one that the show was happening at. Highly interactive and extraordinarily genius, users in the building could post what looked like tweets down the right side of the screen for everyone to see or switch to the other option which was drawing with your finger which showed up in real time covering most of the rest of the screen. What really got the crowd excited was the messages highlighted in red sent by Childish Gambino himself along with Steve G. Riling up the crowd he posted messages like “Who wants to be my girlfriend for the night?” which obviously is just a big tease…right?… Numerous times the crowd would erupt in chants of “Worldstar” posing as a uniting demand as if we had to remind each other we were all there for one guy.
After an hour of sweaty jumping and debates on whether to return to the beer gardens or not the stage light up with futuristic images paired with attention grabbing lasers as Gambino opened with ‘Crawl’. An appropriate song to get the night going being the first full length song on his album ‘Because the Internet’. Now I’m not here to tell you the set list, you can google that any bloody day, I’m here to enlighten you on the atmosphere of the show. The entire album is an experience in itself with encompassing bass in songs like ‘Zealots of Stockholm’ which sounds like Childish is caught in cyber space and is trying to rap his way into material existence. He seems to have succeeded as he energetically runs around the stage in his hipster perfection. What sets Gambino apart from other rappers is his presence and his vocals. In this show he demonstrated not only his capability of unfaltering flow but also his mesmerizing voice. He doesn’t talk much but makes up for his lack of banter with creative transition. One of the highlights of the show being when he kicked the girls who happened to be lucky enough to end up on stage back into the crowd with ‘The Party’ which is a short track that ends up with Gambino demanding ‘get the fuck out of my house’. Sorry lady hipster sluts but you can’t even be mad, I mean we paid to go see him, not your ass hanging out of those short pleather shorts… sorry that might have been my own jealousy monster. Other transitions included thought provoking voices seemingly coming from the ‘deep web’ and more app generated interactions. Whilst Gambino was in the middle of a particularly melodious song a question came up on the screen: How does this make you feel? The app flashed up on the screen of my iPhone with three choices to answer with A) lost B) some type of way C) :o D) roscoe’s wetsuit. Needless to say the Donald Glover spread claim to internet curiosity ‘roscoes wetsuit’ ended with the most percentage of answer with more uniting grins and fist pumps to follow. Gambino’s live performances of the tracks from ‘Because the Internet’ solidify the widely known fact that once you see it live, you will love it forever. This album was great bumping out of my shitty sound system in my car but when you are faced with the reality of seeing it uttered out the makers mouth, well that might just be the reason for living.
In a sweaty satisfactory the crowd erupted in genuine shouts of anticipation as Gambino declares he is switching gears and the stage screen fades from cyber chic to a creepy forest scene. Images of his music video for ‘Bonfire’ flashes in my mind with a cracked out Gambino gallivanting around the forest with incredibly short shorts. Any non-possers in the building began to mentally prepare themselves for Camp, and they weren’t disappointed. The beauty of a live rap show is when you can hear the entire building spit the words you thought only you knew. If you still have a friend who insists that they are the only ones who can spit alongside their idol (and are proud of it?) well chalk them full of alcohol and take them to a rap show. Not even the most pretentious of souls could have stuck with their asshole ways when they are surrounded by people of all walks of life jumping energetically, arm in arm, aggressively spitting every artfully crafted lyric to ‘Freaks and Geeks’ to the live Childish Gambino as their partner in the very same room. And you thought only Jesus could save your soul… too far? Steve G appeared on stage making Gambino seem like a kid but the two lead with equal levels of gangsterness as they spit a single dating back to the mixtape ‘Royalty’ known as ‘One Up’. The beauty of this one is you can hear everyone yelling the most known line “You ain’t liking what we doing? Shut Up”. At this stage of the show inhibitions had flown out the window with the entire building yelling this line like they were on the verge of fisticuffs.
The biggest highlight of the show happened near the end as Gambino asked the music maker for a ‘hard beat’. “You guys wouldn’t mind a little free styling would you?”. Would the crowd of Woodstock have wanted marijuana? This was the quietest the entire building had been since we had all been in the pre-boozing/pre-dj/’I think I lost my phone’ stage. The beat started as gangster as he had asked as he spat a freestyle rhyme with cheers after references to his tv bff Abed, Hastings street (the hooker and crack head street of downtown Vancouver) and of course BC bud. Steve G chimed in to create what hipsters thrive for, a one time track that we were the only ones to hear, and of course it was killer. We all left the arena slightly more sober than we had entered but a universe more satisfied. Once you see him live, you’ll be an addict for life.
Having seen him twice before (not bragging, maybe a little, okay I am) it was hard for me not to compare my experiences. The first time I saw him, back in 2012, I was a new fan having stumbled upon his red-sweatered running in the ‘Freaks and Geeks’ video and having seen him on Community. This first exposure was a but of a musical blur which any of you Sasquatch veterans can relate to. However, due to his ‘under the radar’ status at this point in time I managed to be front row which helped solidify my fandom for Childish Gambino. The next time I saw him was at Squamish Music Festival in 2013. By this time I knew basically every song he spat and even though I wasn’t front row I still managed to get chucked into the air in a forced crowd surf (ah the beauty of being 5’3”). Both of these performances weren’t as long as I wanted them and I knew I had to go to an exclusive concert sooner or later. In every show I have seen Childish Gambino at he is always a man of few words and small shorts with a miraculous amount of energy. I don’t think I will ever get sick of seeing this guy live.
Whether you have been a fan since Royalty, Camp, or Because the Internet or your brother made you listen to him once on a forced road trip to go visit your grandmother, I’d suggest you make an effort to see Childish Gambino live. The power of live music mixed with the sheer depth of his talent and creativity will never disappoint. You have my hipster word.