Phoenix may have never seen a show as hype as Watsky’s nearly sold out appearance at The Pressroom on Saturday. With a full band and a slew of lively openers, the fans blew the roof off in their excitement.
Local rapper Mouse Powell opened the show, playing new music to get the party started. He was followed by D.C. artist Beau Young Prince, who did his best to transport the crowd back to the funky vibes of the 1970s. With tight beats and excellent flow, BYP successfully had the crowd moving, repeating lyrics and even lighting up the venue with their phones. A relative unknown, BYP was featured on the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse soundtrack, a fact that was met with cheers from the audience.
Seattle rapper Grieves provided direct support, drawing screams from the front row and most of the venue rapping along to his rhymes. He was backed by his DJ/hype man, who also joined him at the front to dance to the beat. Grieves incorporated his slick rhythm with humor, making the fans laugh between songs with his cheeky attitude. He also reintroduced Danny Torgersen, an extraordinary local trumpet player who graced the stage with Mouse Powell earlier in the evening and once more in the middle of Grieves’ set. Dressed in a spangled jacket, Torgersen blasted the crowd with a wall of sound from the trumpet, and laughed with Grieves throughout his time onstage.
With Watsky’s set, the anticipation built to a breaking point. He hit the stage with gusto, jumping immediately into “Brave New World” and “Moral of the Story”. His full band held down solid instrumentals, while dual vocalist Camila Recchio jumped in for features and harmonies on Watsky’s extensive setlist.
Attendees had fun during each of the openers, but the energy in the room shifted dramatically during Watsky’s time onstage. These fans adore Watsky to the extreme, surging forward to crush the front row just to get even a little bit closer.
In their defense, this is entirely understandable. George Watsky is another level of performer. He bounded from end to end onstage, often leaping onto the precarious barricade to grasp hands with swooning fans. He full-on jumped into the crowd on several occasions, balancing on top of scores of eager hands. On top of all that, he’s incredibly humble. He thanked his devoted fans repeatedly and even honored a superfan’s request for the addition of “Energy” into the night’s setlist.
As this was the Complaint Album Tour, there were plenty of new tracks on tap. The hype intensified for the rock ‘n roll “Mean Ass Drunk” and everyone swayed along as Watsky picked them up in his “Limo 4 Emos”. Watsky and Recchio took it down a notch for a beautifully melancholic duet of “Sloppy Seconds” before the crowd’s official “Welcome to the Family”.
Sure, Watsky is a hype rapper, his flow ranging from impossibly fast to actually incomprehensible, but he’s also got a message to spread. His lyrics tell stories from the political to the societal. He ruminated on technology’s impact with the set’s closer- the three-part epic called “Tiny Glowing Screens”. Part 2 may have been the highlight of the whole evening, with the track’s spoken word being shouted by a full venue, lighters ablaze for Watsky’s lament. He didn’t make the fans wait long, returning to the stage for an encore “Whitecaps” and the stomping conclusion “Whoa Whoa Whoa”.
Watsky may arguably be one of today’s greatest hip hop performers. His energy was off the charts the entire 90 minutes he spent in front of his fans, never wavering or giving less than everything he had. The best part for a lot of people? Watsky’s time-honored tradition of meeting every single fan outside of his shows, no matter how long it takes to go through. If you’ve been sleeping on Watsky, it’s time to wake up- he won’t be off anyone’s radar for long.
Story and photos by Olivia Khiel