Kevin Abstract - Madame Lou's - 12.17.23 - Photos by Emmett Orgass

“What is the role of a performer?”, I ask myself while walking home from the Kevin Abstract show at Madame Lou’s last Sunday night.

For the entirety of his performance, Kevin Abstract rejected every front light. Illuminated only by the LED panels at the back of the stage, he performed entirely in silhouette. Apart from the rogue cellphone flash, I never saw his face. When the venue raised the lights, he’d wave them down. As a photographer, concert lighting is already a challenge. And so when an artists prefers the low-lights, there is little chance that you could achieve a clean, crisp image. You can see this in these photos. Few would pass editorial standards.

However, as the show continued I began to recognize something phenomenal: there was an immense outpouring of love between Kevin and his fans. Bathed in warm red and orange hues, he wound around the stage floor, holding fans’ hands and giving hugs. People would shout, and he would listen. For some, this was spiritual. 

The majority of people may know Kevin Abstract for his work as the frontman of the now-defunct American hip-hop boy band BROCKHAMPTON, which consistently topped charts from 2016 until their breakup in 2022. For many in my generation BROCKHAMPTON defined the sound of the transitonal period between high school and college, between childhood and adulthood. BROCKHAMPTON narrated a formative period of our lives.

Now, Kevin Abstract is reprising his solo career. A few songs into the set, he takes a moment to give a heartfelt monologue: “Thank you guys for being here tonight, genuinely. I’m still getting used to it being just me up here. I’m used to performing with 5, maybe 6 other people on stage, and when it’s just you up here, it feels different. It’s still new. So thank you, this means a lot”. Parts of Kevin’s set felt unrehearsed. He’d look down at the set list at his feet and mumble “hmm yeah i don’t want to do that one….uhhhhhh yeah let’s skip it”. And thrice, he asked the audience to open up a mosh pit, citing “I know my music’s not that kind of music… but it would just make me feel a bit more comfortable, if we had a mosh— thanks”.

The appreciation was mutual.

And so, as I sit here looking through my photos, I contemplate how his performance was in stark contrast to every other show I have seen, where there is so much emphasis on the spotlight, the strobe, and the image. And I realize that the role of the performer is not to do something that can be easily documented. It is to curate an experience, it is to create a special atmosphere, it is to do something so entirely unique and interesting that the moment will persist.

And in the darkness, Kevin Abstract couldn’t have done it better.

--Review by Emmett Orgass

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