The screams faded, the lights returned to their normal stable yellow hue, and the crowd slowly started to trickle onto the street, ears still ringing, mouths still grinning. It was November 20th and indie-pop singer Gus Dapperton had just made his final stop on tour at D.C.’s 9:30 Club. His intoxicating voice and passionate energy filled the room and consumed the crowd, providing a lively and fitting end to his past few months of performing. For many members of the audience, this was their first show back after a long hiatus from live music, filling the venue with a sense of built-up excitement and renewed community.
Following the release of his second studio album, Orca, in 2020, Dapperton and his band began touring this past October. They played throughout the U.S. and Canada, anywhere from festival stages, including the DMV’s own All Things Go music festival at Merriweather Post Pavilion, to smaller, more intimate settings like the 9:30 Club. The first half of his tour was opened by Spill Tab, an artist known for dreamy bedroom pop tunes, while the latter half was opened by the indie band MICHELLE.
MICHELLE took the stage promptly at 6:30 to blazing LED lights and rising cheers from the audience. The New York City group is made up of vocalists Jamee Lockard, Emma Lee, Sofia D’Angelo, and Layla Ku, Julian Kaufman playing the synth, and Charlie Kilgore on bass. Their performance set up Dapperton wonderfully, with their high energy songs and enthusiastic conversation with the crowd. Jazzy beats complemented by R&B-influenced vocals created an angelic sound that was somehow even more beautiful in-person. The band played their earliest hits alongside newer songs, like “SYNCOPATE,” “MESS U MADE,” and “FYO.” Their songs range from upbeat, intense anthems to slow and intimate bedroom pop jams to funky R&B tunes. Many of their songs reflect their NYC roots, telling coming-of-age stories of teens in the city.
Concurrent with MICHELLE’s singing was a strategic and fantastically executed use of short choreographed dances. The four vocalists would unite on the stage, slipping into subtly choreographed moves, before dispersing once more and continuing to dance on their own. This gave their show a unique, dynamic, and entertaining element. Though most fans came for Dapperton, it was clear that MICHELLE widened their fan base that night.
Finally, Gus Dapperton took the stage donning an understated black polo shirt and black jeans, which served as a background for his bright red guitar. His set was interspersed with classics, songs off of his newest album, and a couple of covers. He began with “Bluebird,” a song off of the new Orca album that showcases his notorious raspy voice and had the audience dancing immediately. He later played a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire,” a song that every person in the audience knew and sang along to passionately.
Dapperton commanded the stage with both his energetic dancing and his mesmerizing voice: in one moment deep and gravelly, then light and soft in the next. He was joined on stage by Tommy Sibilla on drums, Kylo Yen on bass, Sara L’Abriola playing lead guitar, and Ruby Amadelle on keyboard, all of whom danced along with him. His impressive vocal range and distinctive voice, notable on tape, is even more striking live. The performance would shift throughout the show from an upbeat, jumping energy to a very slow, intimate feel. Dapperton does not claim any one genre for his music and likes to explore all different types of sound, and his performance reflects this versatile vibe. During his slower, more down-to-earth songs, the lights would fade leaving only a few left, and the focus would turn to him and his red acoustic guitar sitting somewhere on the stage, creating a very intimate moment between him and the crowd. He might then switch to a song that he announces as a “dancing song” and is accompanied by colorful strobe lights and loud vocals. He was able to control the energy of the room depending on the song he was playing in that moment.
Towards the end of his set, Dapperton dove confidently into the crowd, caught by an army of screaming fans. “It was so awesome; I had never seen someone actually crowd surf before. It felt like a really classic concert experience I finally got to have,” said Seareen, one of the soldiers who passed him along through the sea of people. The energy of the room only seemed to swell as the concert went on rather than peeter out.
Dapperton ended with two of his most popular songs—“Fill Me Up Anthem” and “Post Humorous”—before exiting the stage to raucous cries for more. Of course, Dapperton and his band hurried back out to fulfill the audience’s request. They played their usual encore, but had one more song planned for their tour finale. With all the spirit and energy that the song deserves, they launched into a cover of Elvis Presley’s “Twist and Shout.” True to the song’s title, the entire crowd was screaming the lyrics and dancing along. Dapperton was joined on stage by all of MICHELLE and other crew members who sang and danced and hugged in a beautiful, electric final goodbye.
After a year of quarantine and digital contact, fans were more than eager to see Gus Dapperton live. “It’s this feeling of, ya know, not apprehension but definitely nervousness coming to stuff like this. But then once you come back and then you just remember everything, you get the muscle memory of what it was like to go back to venues like this. It feels good. It feels good,” said Jack, one of many enthusiastic fans, after the show.
Gus Dapperton and MICHELLE created an extremely upbeat, high-energy environment where they celebrated their final show with their fans. The crowd got to experience unique, genre-bending music; it was clear everybody on stage was having a great time, and this energy was picked up and matched by the audience. Anyone looking for a fun, welcoming show led by impressive vocals and passionate musicians should keep an eye out for Dapperton’s next tour.