Any chance I get to see Omar Souleyman, I’m going to take it. Even if it’s in a tiny club that you enter into through an alley, and it’s sparsely attended in a way that makes it feel like an awkward birthday party, or the kind of nightmare people that are about to be married have where no one shows up to their wedding except the people they felt obligated to invite. That said, Souleyman is a master at working with nothing. He stares just over the crowd, singing and clapping as his keyboard player goes bananas. There were probably only 100 people watching him, but it might as well have been 20,000.
Not far away, I caught the second half of Tanlines’ set, which was completely packed. Watching this band grow has been amazing, mostly because what they are now is so unique. It’s not often that you get a band that’s able to write songs that, if they heard them, would probably make 16-year-olds understand their place in the world, just as much as they can uniquely capture that weird “I’m so bummed that it’s literally laughable” feeling that comes from being an adult.
On Thursday, I saw Beirut, the only outdoor show of my entire time in Portland, which was nice because it was beautiful. It’s always weird seeing such a self-consciously old timey band like Beirut. There’s almost no concession to any modern songwriting tropes in his music. Zach Condon is an excellent songwriter with a clear vision of what he wants to achieve every step of the way.These songs could have existed in just about any decade since the ’20s and they would probably sound exactly the same. If you miss out on all the wild shit of childhood, do you become Zach Condon? I’m not claiming he didn’t have a normal childhood, just that he seems so obsessed with the past that it’s like he’s created a hermetic world around himself. A woman standing next to me in a long floral dress was smiling to the sky, swaying and singing along, completely transported, like she existed in a separate, alternate reality, created by Beirut. Maybe you don’t need to feel like you’re missing out on popular culture or being a kid just to be a kid. Condon’s music is escapist, and if you’re into it, he’s perfectly happy to take you with him.
Going from Beirut to Danny Brown was like immediately thrusting your hand directly into a blue flame. His songs aren’t necessarily conducive to a live set, they’re wordy and his voice is often a strangled yelp, but over the past couple years, he’s managed to hone that into something pretty amazing. On stage, Brown is all tongue and gangly limbs, stomping across the stage like a praying mantis. By the time he performed “Die Like a Rockstar” the entire crowd was in a frenzy.