Some nights it’s hard to decide whether you want to see a rap show, some mellow indie pop, or adrenaline-fueled electronic-influenced alt rock. But if you’re headed to the Rad Drugz tour, you can have it all. MISSIO’s headlining tour in support of their upcoming second full-length kicked off at Phoenix’s Crescent Ballroom and brought much-needed hype on Tuesday night.
At first, the bill seemed like a hodgepodge of artists that were doomed to lack flow, but a closer listen reveals that they all complement each other. MISSIO has cited hip hop, folk, grunge, and classic rock as influences, so the acts make sense—and they showed some Austin, TX pride.
Swells, an electropop duo consisting of Taylor Baker and Drew Walker, opened the show with mellow instrumentals and dreamy vocals. The crowd trickled in lazily, not quite ready for the spirited energy of the evening, and watched with mild interest. However, as Baker’s vocals grew more powerful and the dark electronic undertones of their music became more apparent, the crowd got hooked.
Each song, well, swells. They’ve no doubt been guided by Dwight Baker, MISSIO’s producer who has taken Swells under his wing for some studio time. Armed with fresh cuts like “Ramen” (which was one of multiple songs about food during the set) they’re ready for the road.
Soon the sheet obscuring the neon sign that hung over the stage fell to the ground, revealing Blackillac’s simple setup before the atmosphere switched gears entirely. Suddenly we were in the midst of a hip hop house party hosted by emcees ZEALE and PHRANCHYZE, known together as Blackillac. “Like Cadillac, but black.”
The duo call themselves brothers because they’ve been close friends since high school, and their effortless chemistry on stage lets them bounce off each other’s energy to boost the crowd. Everyone watched, rapt, as the duo zipped through “Fukkin’ Up,” “6 Ringz,” “Juice it Up” and freestyle bars. The rap battle went faster and faster, and you just know they do this for fun in their free time.
The rappers were the perfect companions for MISSIO, who brought them back on stage for “Shimmy,” a track off the upcoming The Darker the Weather, the Better the Man. They’re all friends here, and the album proves it. It’s full of exciting collabs with other Austinites and traverses musical styles and lyrical backstories.
MISSIO pulled half their setlist from the new album, including recent singles “Temple Priest” and “Rad Drugz.” Both were part of the explosive intro to their set when they emerged in long white hooded robes, and vocalist Matthew Brue jumped all over the stage while David Butler whipped his braids around.
There was rap, there were big cinematic beats, and there was even a brief DJ set after “Everybody Gets High.” But despite the intensity and energy coming from the stage, the crowd remained for the most part sleepy and disengaged. As usual, it was up to the younger fans to match the hype.
What finally roused the room was “Middle Fingers,” the f-you anthem that had everyone’s hands in the air. Though Brue wrote it about his addiction, the gesture and sentiment proved unifying. The venue house lights revealed a sea of middle fingers before everything went dark and the crowd shouted for more.
The encore was the first time either half of MISSIO spoke at length. Brue explained the meaning behind their most recent single: after experiencing how their music impacted fans, he wanted everyone to know that no matter what, they’re not alone. “You’re seen tonight,” Brue assured, and the music played—“I See You,” both a needed reminder and a poignant ending.
Story and photos by Taylor Gilliam