Given the number of drug references, not to mention the overall psychedelic tone, in Mac Miller’s music, one might expect his live show to be a little more, shall we say, sedated. After attending his most recent DMV show at the Fillmore in Silver Spring this past Sunday, however, it’s now certain that the exact opposite is true. Mac’s live performance is, in a word, lit.
But it’d be hard to anticipate this just by standing around outside the venue. The immaturity, the sheer stupidity, of some of the members of this crowd is staggering. High-school students pass around plastic Coke bottles filled with mixed drinks and are then appalled when the Fillmore’s security calls them out on it. At least half a dozen kids are accused of underage drinking and, unable to prove they are actually 21, immediately thrown out. Within minutes of standing in line a scrawny teenager is choke-slammed down to the sidewalk when he makes the mistake of raising a fist against an enormous guard he’d been shouting at. When he tries to run away a few minutes later, he’s tackled to the ground and cuffed. A steady stream of high school-age girls show up at the ticket booth trying to claim the passes they promise their aunt or uncle or grandma had transferred them, but they don’t have IDs, and they too are turned away.
The scene isn’t much better inside the venue. The crowd – overwhelmingly Caucasian, made up, overwhelmingly, of high-schoolers – fills almost every inch of the Fillmore’s floor space. It’s a medium-sized venue with a 2000 person max capacity, but Mac’s managed, for the third time since his rise to fame, to sell the place out. Even the upper balconies are jam-packed – just to lean over the lowest railing costs an additional fifteen bucks.
Mac’s openers, the Atlanta-based duo EarthGang, set the tone for the night with an energetic set. Although their official releases benefit from attention to lyricism – comedy, wordplay, thought-provoking political sentiments, and so on – they made the (presumably) calculated decision this tour to turn their songs, on stage, into rowdy, belligerent, nihilistic club music. Assisted by their DJ and other members of the crew, the duo jumped up and down for at least 80% of their set. While the crowd was into it at some points, the majority were definitely saving their energy for the headliner.
By the time the lights went completely dark and the opening synth notes of ‘Loud’ came pulsing through the PA system, it was clear the show’s intensity was about to ramp up. The lights blared neon green and purple, the bass kicked in through the loudspeakers, and Mac ran on stage and launched straight into his verses with a frantic, unstoppable energy.
Judging from the way he controlled the crowd and the dynamics of the arena throughout the whole show, there’s no doubt Mac has grown in the last few years into a seasoned performer. His trademark this time around seems to be deftly swinging back and forth between two modes. On the one hand, there are slightly-sped up, more bass-heavy turn-up songs – cuts like “100 Grandkids,” “In The Bag,” and “When In Rome” from his most recently-released album GO:OD AM – meant solely to rile the audience up. Midway through his set, for example, he morphed “Break The Law,” previously a smooth, mellow, and fairly unremarkable track, into an absolute monster. As the crowd roared the hook of ‘Get money, fuck the system, break the law’, the venue drifted for an all-too-brief few minutes into complete, glorious mayhem.
The other mode of Mac’s performance is that of the soul singer. Immediately following every single one of the loud, bass-heavy bangers, the elaborate light show cuts to black and a pair of yellow spotlights shines down on Mac. He leans in close, grips the mic with both hands, and closes his eyes, swaying with the music. He made, for example, a valiant effort to fill in for R&B and soul singer Miguel’s outro part on “Weekend,” the biggest hit from GO:OD AM, and came closer to the mark than anyone would have guessed he could have.
Another highlight of the night was the peak of energy for the rapper’s most famous song, “Donald Trump.” Mac opted for the slow buildup here, taking his sweet time to make sure the crowd had nailed the Sufjan Stevens-sampled melody for a couple bars before he let DJ Clockwork drop in the bass and kick off the track at full power.
Overall, Mac’s energy and showmanship proved to be the most memorable parts of the night. You know when someone is drenched in sweat by the end of their second song on stage that they’re giving it their all, and this was Mac all the way through the show, bouncing around as if he was on fire. Fortunately, the youth of the audience didn’t prevent them from knowing the words to every song, and with that kind of energy and enthusiasm, the concert in the end just became a huge, rowdy, fun-loving party. The vibe was perhaps summed up best by Mac himself, addressing, near the end of his set, a cluster of middle-schoolers in the middle of the crowd unwilling to dance: “You all know the words but you’re just chillin. We don’t want none of that shit!”
There are only a few more dates on Mac’s GO:OD AM Tour. If you’re at all into the music, or even just looking to turn up one last time before Christmas break, go see him while you still can – it’s sure to be a blast.