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Hobo Johnson Plays Young Crowd’s Heartstrings Like a Fiddle

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The first thing I noticed was the lack of drinks in hand among the show-goers. To be fair, the venue in question charges enough for alcohol to inspire a decent amount pre-gaming among patrons, but most of these kids didn’t even have wristbands. That’s what caused me to reflect on the massive age gap between myself, not even yet in my 30s, and the audience.

The dark venue was smoggy with the scent of eclair and peanut butter and jelly e-juice. It was also charged with the excitement of young people who had clearly not been to many shows so far in their short lives. There were titters and whoops whenever the stagehands did anything.

The spray-painted HOBO AND THE BOIS banner on the stage loomed over us. It looked like an attempt to recreate the backyard feel of the Tiny Desk Concert that launched Frank Lopes (Hobo) into the stratosphere. It also reeked of arrogance, but that’s what the crowd came to see. The self-styled, awkward sadboy who also had the ability to suspend his social anxiety for just long enough spit emotional verses and communicate with hundreds of he people he’s never met.

Babyfaced, 20-something men of all kinds congregated, clearly feeling Frank understood them. And that maybe he had something to teach them about love and confidence and coming out of their sadboy shells.

The opener was love-sadKID, a young rapper and songwriter from Dallas. A good fit with the same shy shtick as the headliner, but more of a hip-hop delivery than Hobo’s rocky approach. KID was so competent though, that it in a way, he upstaged Lopes before he even had chance to prove himself.

When Frank took the stage, there was no evidence of the long, curly mane most fans are familiar with. His hair was cut short. Not quite a buzzcut, but reminiscent of the recently expired Mac Miller. The enthusiasm was fully in-tact though.

The set was partly spoken-word backed up by the Lovemakers’ rock rhythm section, part rap and part screamed. The first half felt fresh and new, even to those of us who were only there out of pure fascination with Frank’s incredible rise to success rather than true admiration of his work. But only the hardcores would have appreciate the latter half, as Hobo got more and more weepy. Lyrics about bullets in the chest being the only cure for his sadness. Predictions that he would be “Alone Forever” despite the fame he’d achieved.

His social ineptitude felt rehearsed throughout most of the night. He inserted stutters and clunky pauses which seemed calculated and choreographed to cement his reputation as a delicate romantic. It wasn’t dishonesty as much as it was a part of his performance. Although it’s not hard to imagine him melting the hearts of young fans after the show using the sly tactic.

Peach Scone” concluded the short show. A song which has landed Lopes more than 10 million clicks at the time of this blog post.

Photo Credit: @chels_e_lately

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