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Photos & review: Earl Sweatshirt live at WOW Hall [10.29.13]

First period classes at South Eugene High School on Wednesday morning were bound to be filled with chitter chatter about the Earl Sweatshirt concert that rattled the WOW Hall the night before. The audience was predominately young and overtly rowdy but this is exactly the kind of vibe Odd Future’s Earl Sweatshirt wants when he spits his compelling acidic flow over murky, downer beats.

The show didn’t begin until 9:40 pm but fans were lining up outside the WOW much earlier, closer to 6 pm. To experience the full-throttle insanity that takes place at an Odd Future (OF) show, you must be plopped front and center. The base of the doors leading into WOW were covered with empty Gatorade and water bottles that appeared to have not been used to inject loads of electrolytes, rather presumably, cheap liquor. A few spots before a light frisking by security, one concert attendee left behind a pair of small scissors. Thank Yeezus those were left at the door.

There are a few guarantees when attending an Odd Future performance: the crowd will play an unregulated game of who can sport the craziest shirt/threads (that night’s winner was a young fellow who was wearing a complete astronaut suit minus the helmet), the venue’s alcohol sales will drop due to a massive underage audience and the rap collective’s DJ will spin for at least a half hour before any rappers come on stage. Tonight’s DJ was the chief OF DJ Syd tha Kyd (she’s covering for her brother Taco who is out for four Doris dates, including Eugene). Syd tha Kyd spins some aggressive records and drops while the crowd begins to rise to simmering temperatures.

It’s at this point that Syd tha Kyd looks to her right while playing “Kill” off of Earl Sweatshirt’s self titled debut mix tape and nods for Earl and Vince Staples, another young rapper not in OF but appears on many Earl tracks, to come on stage. 

Earl is wearing a black hoodie sweatshirt and the hood was permanently placed over his head throughout his performance. He commands the audience by doing very little and he holds the mic close to his mouth a la Jay Z but in his own manner. Earl and Vince Staples start ripping through a Doris-lopsided set (he only played two tracks off his outstanding debut, “Kill” and “Earl”) and the crowd gobbles whatever he tosses at them.

During a short break in between songs, an audience member sprays water on stage, which slightly peeves Earl who then recognizes the disruptive dweeb. “I remember this kid from last time,” says Earl, which causes WOW to erupt with cheers. Referring to last May’s performance, Earl tells the crowd that this uncontrollable fan challenged Earl mid show to an impromptu rap battle before backing out. This momentary delay ends quickly and Earl is back on the mic plucking through every track off his major label debut Doris.

Earl’s emotions on stage fluctuated throughout the performance. At times he appeared bored, almost as if rapping to the same young white majority crowds night after night can be as cumbersome as is seems. But there were moments of undeniable genius. Midway through his hour-long set, Earl said, “Hey light man! Can we have something very ominous?” And the venue was soon flipped into a dark, fog-filled room that was only lit by a red, velvet light. During these songs, his raps developed into the dark, brilliant anthems for the conscience youth, which make Earl a noticeable dot on the rap game’s monitor.

The last song of the night was fan favorite “Drop” and Earl had the crowd separate into two sections so he can compare which side was wilder. After a few minutes of teasing the kids, Earl and Vince Staple tore through their final song and left with no signs of an encore. 

Filling out of WOW Hall was slow but it gave chance to see who was in front and who exerted every ounce of energy they had for the show. Young boys were dripping with sweat (which backfired for it was roughly 40 degrees outside) and one boy was applying a backwards cross with a Sharpie on his chest while waiting to exit. These are the fans that propel Odd Future and that night they waited in the cold for their rides to come pick them up.

Words by Silas Valentino. Color photos by Todd Cooper. B&W photos by Rob Sydor