Concert Review: AFROPUNK at Thalia Hall (Chicago)

“Is this what being a scene kid is like?”

All I could think about last night at AFROPUNK Chicago was “so THIS is where all the beautiful, hip people are” while meandering through Thalia Hall. It was promoted as a ‘party,’ with Redd’s sponsoring the event allowing for never-ending free booze to be clutched in people’s hands. While I indulged in only a few sips (geh), I drank water while ogling what seemed to be a scene party I awkwardly inserted myself into. The official hashtag for AFROPUNK Chicago was #wickedparty so I knew I was going to be out of place.

When Afropunk Chicago by-way-of the original in New York and Atlanta was initially pitched to me, I got excited seeing a lineup featuring Chicago’s HOLT and Hannibal Buress with Danny Brown. With that, I became eager to hit up the event since it promised a fresh lineup differeing from the shows I typically attend.

Once I walked in, though, I couldn’t help but think, “where the hell am I?”

I came in bewildered, with the in-between hype man preparing us for Hannibal Buress to perform. People blatantly stared at me, with the clear expression of, “who is this person and what scene does she belong to?” I didn’t understand exactly why this kept occurring until my friend later explained that THESE types of events are where the hip black people are, and it’d been awhile since she was at one of them.

Oh man, I thought, this is just like Saul Williams all over again.

Right when the dread began setting in, Hannibal Buress came on stage for a ten minute set. He quickly called us out on having not paid to get in or paying for our drinks, and said he didn’t really care because he would get to watch Danny Brown perform later. With a slight smirk on my face, I struggled to hear the rest of his set since the crowd kept speaking over him. This, my friend said, didn’t bother Hannibal Buress too much since he knew exactly what he was getting into, and he just didn’t give a fuck. It was (from as far as I can tell) a relaxed set, making quips about 2 Chainz and as quickly as he was on he was off. Eternal sighs.

Taking in the surroundings while Skywlkr set up for Danny Brown, my friend wondered how exactly one got into the VIP areas roped off in the balcony. I thought it was via guest lists of the artists until she pointed out a bunch of scene kids who were up there and whom she knew for a fact didn’t know the performers.

Wait, what?

This brought up the question of the influence of scene kids in Chicago and what perks being scene came with. For the record, I am NOT a scene kid which I pointed out last night in my classically salty live Tweets:

Typos aside, it’s true. I can’t say I vibe with those guys, though I have nothing against them per se. Once you attend enough live shows in the city and running into the same people, the differentiations between industry, nightlife, scene, and hypebeasts becomes blatantly clear and you start wondering which group you belong to. I know my place as international press and industry but I’m also nightlife. So, where exactly does that pit me against scenesters? Chicago group loyalty and understanding directly equates to which parties you’re invited to, who will actually remember your name, and how many award shows you attend.

Oops, digression. Couldn’t help it since while my friend and I discussed merits of music world, we tried very hard to ignore the hype man pulling out a GIANT LIGHTER (literally, an oversized flask) and waved it around on stage.

Thankfully, it was time for Danny Brown as headliner. Skywlkr did what Skywlkr does best and hyped the crowd the fuck up. I’ve seen Danny Brown perform four times previously, so I knew what to expect with a pump-up set with his tour DJ. Even when technical difficulties arose, Skywlkr’s command of the crowd kept everyone jumping and screaming the entire time.

Danny Brown came on, and the crowd went wild. It was a solid set from the rapper, high energy, exciting, though he looked pretty exhausted from non-stop touring and recording. I gotta hand it to the guy – every time I’ve seen him, he makes sure to pull through enough so that he can give the audience a fantastic experience. The major qualm I had was with the sound (of course), since the bass was so blown out that you could barely hear the vocals or melodic lines. Even when he performed my favorite songs I couldn’t even tell.

While the entire event lasted roughly three hours (I was in bed by midnight, what?!), I had quite the fill of a hip, artsy party where I didn’t really fit in. Maybe one day I really will be hip enough to be at a show, but until then, I’ll just be checking on my cats in Nekoatsume and call it a night.

Online Editor