Childish Gambino at Fillmore Silver Spring
Call him nerd rap. Call him emo rap. Say he’s just doing it for the girls. But no matter what you say about him, his show at the Fillmore Silver Spring on November 1st proved this about Childish Gambino: if he’s not already a force to be reckoned with in the hip-hop world, he will be very soon.
Just a quick note about the venue: if you haven’t already, read this really terrific article by the Washington City Paper about the Fillmore Silver Spring. This was my first time going to a show up there and while it was nice (as one would expect from a brand new concert hall), it seemed to be lacking the soul that exists and places such as 9:30 Club, Black Cat, or Rock N Roll Hotel – almost a Disney-fication of those places, the kind of thing that would exist as a replica in Epcot. There also still seem to be some kinks that need working out – when we showed up at 8, the line wrapped around the block… and then another block. While it only took around thirty minutes to get in after waiting in line, I’ve never seen that kind of hold up at any other venue in the area (probably because other venues don’t require you to take every single thing out of your pockets and then digitally scan your ID card). Once inside, it wasn’t overly crowded or uncomfortable at all. I recommend that if you do decide to venture up there for a show, try to get there early and avoid the lines.
The opener for the show was SoSuperSam, a DJ out of Los Angeles. After her 2010 mixtape, Cruel Summer, she garnered a good bit of hype and acclaim and was hired by clients such as Casio, Complex Magazine, House of Blues, and Urban Outfitters. She played a good mix of hip-hop before the show – nothing spectacular or mind-blowing, but just a lot of upbeat more modern stuff that the crowd seemed to vibe to. There wasn’t any noticeable mixing or anything like that but it was a good warm-up for the show to come later. She just released a free mixtape on her site, check it out and see what you think.
That said, it didn’t seem like Childish Gambino (AKA Donald Glover, formerly of Derrick Comedy, former writer on NBC’s 30 Rock, and currently starring as Troy in NBC’s Community) needed much of a warm-up – he sauntered on stage with his live band and immediately launched into a one-two punch of “Hero” followed by “Freaks & Geeks,” and of course, the crowd went wild, singing along to every word and jumping up and down. This was not just another actor turned rapper. Glover was kinetic, jumping around on stage, running from side to side, climbing on top of speakers, and generally not settling down to rest for one second. The live band definitely helped with the atmosphere, building the intensity when necessary and making the beats from the songs sound that much better than they did on record.
After that, he slowed it down a little bit by singing “So Fly” – cracking up halfway through the song when someone near the front yelled something to him, which he responded to after the song by wishing “happy birthday” to whoever it was. Throughout the entire show, Glover did a great job interacting with the crowd – jumping into the front row, slapping hands with concertgoers, and even at one point grabbing a girl’s cell phone that she was using to shoot a video of the performance and rapping right into it before giving it back. You could tell he really knew what it was like to be a fan of music and appreciated all the love he was being given on stage.
He continued running through a medley of his earlier songs before playing a cover of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” in the background as the screen proclaimed “John Legend’s Voice” and instructing the crowd to clap – and clap they did, jumping around the whole time before Gambino launched into his Adele-sampling “Do Ya Like.” His Grizzly Bear-sampling “Bitch Look At Me Now” got another huge response from the crowd, and they continued to sing along to “Break (All Of The Lights),” “I Be On That”, “Difference,” and “Bonfire.” At one point, he launched into “You See Me,” a new song from his upcoming Camp, with the lyrics projected on screen behind him – within 15 seconds of the song starting, he had the crowd jumping and yelling along to the words. Now that’s swag.
After leaving the stage, the crowd was immediately chanting “Gam-bin-o” and it didn’t take long for Glover and his band to return for the encore. He came back out with his shirt wrapped around his neck, launching into a freestyle referencing Silver Spring, DC, and the crowd. He performed a few more songs (including a new one, “Firefly,” off Camp), seemingly feeding off the crowd’s energy, before ending with “Not Going Back.” He then genuinely thanked the crowd and seemed impressed with the sold-out audience before the lights came up and everyone filtered into the streets of Silver Spring, still buzzing with the post-concert high.
When all was said and done, this was one of the best live shows I’ve seen in a long while – Glover was energetic and electric the whole time, constantly moving around and keeping the crowd going with the flow. The live band played to his strengths and made already good songs sound amazing. And the crowd was more into it than a lot of shows I’ve seen, singing along to every word, bouncing and clapping and yelling, even to the new songs they may never have heard. I’ve been a fan of Gambino’s work for a while and even I was blown away with how dynamic and thrilling his live show really is. Despite getting his rap name from an online Wu-Tang name generator (yes, really), Childish Gambino deserves all of the hype and acclaim being thrown his way. Expect to see much more of him very soon.
Watch the video for his latest single, “Bonfire,” and be sure to pick up his new album Camp when it drops on November 15.