By Alexa Solis
Tyler the Creator is known for pushing buttons, but for much of his fan base that is part of his appeal. The Los Angeles-based shock rapper’s concert at the Knitting Factory last Thursday was a demonstration of his controversial antics, but it lacked the kind of high-energy entertainment that puts a concert in a league all its own.
“Sup assholes,” Tyler the Creator said as he greeted his audience.
That was one of his more innocuous interactions with the crowd. But for many fans, that was undoubtedly the reason they had attended the concert. Tyler, along with the rest of Odd Future, have made a reputation for themselves with their nonsensical antics, and Tyler’s solo work is predominantly filled with dark, brooding lyrics that never seem to be anything more than a stream of consciousness.
However, his darkness was in direct contrast to the childish joy that he and his cohorts performed with. As argumentative and downright acerbic as Tyler comes across on social media and in his lyrics, his interactions with the audience never became anything that was mean spirited.
In fact, Tyler’s onstage chemistry with fellow rappers and Odd Future members Taco and Jasper was that of old friends hanging out. Tyler often cracked jokes at their expense throughout the show. At points, it almost felt as though the concert was becoming a comedy act, which is strange considering the depravity of his lyrics. For someone that was there to enjoy the music, it was a bit of a letdown. Sometimes, it seemed as though the banter between the three was longer than any song that they played.
Though it may be shocking for many, Tyler’s fan base revels in his absurdist style. The artist is self-aware in his complete upheaval, and in some ways caricatures, of social norms, and the audience loved it during the concert. While Tyler’s persona was on-point with what he has created for himself in the media, the actual delivery of his songs left something to be desired.
The speakers were so loud that they drowned out his already deep baritone. Though that was to no fault of his own, it made getting into the concert and his songs difficult. While some fans seemed eager to jump and at points mumble along with his inaudible lyrics, the audience began to lose steam by the concert’s end.
In some ways, Tyler the Creator has a unique relationship with his fans, and that will never be more apparent than at one of his concerts. The entire show was permeated by a playful antagonism from both the artist and his fans. With every quip spewed by Tyler, audience members spewed an array of appropriately inappropriate retorts.
As much as he attempts to create an aura of individuality and an unwillingness to cater to his audience, he played into their jeering at times, giving into a song request that he claimed to hate.
The concert surprisingly never turned into the flailing mosh pits that Tyler is often known for, and he noticed the difference. Perhaps it was the unusually young audience, the relatively low turnout or maybe just the way the crowd was feeling that night, but there was something different about this particular performance.
The crowd was animated, but never got as excited or rowdy as Tyler seemed to be accustomed to. Though he mentioned it as a good thing, it was definitely a tame affair, especially for one of his shows.
As he looked into the crowd between songs, he smiled and remarked upon Reno’s tame, but lively audience. According to Tyler that was a plus; however, that won’t be enough to bring him back anytime soon.
While preparing to launch into his final song, he joked that the only time he’d be back in Reno was when he was old and had a gambling problem. Although he was smiling, his tone was quite serious.
It seems as though Reno felt the same way about him. Quickly after the show finished, the audience scurried out of the venue, spilling out into the alley behind the Knitting Factory. As the saying goes: It’s been real. It’s been fun. But it hasn’t been really fun.
Alexa Solis can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @alexacsolis.