Chance the Rapper live in Santa Barbara 8/11

IMG_0644My companion and I queued for two hours, waiting patiently for the doors to open at Velvet Jones, a small bar/music venue in Santa Barbara, hosting the up-and-coming Chance the Rapper for his first solo performance on his promotional tour for his mixtape Acid Rap. 90 minutes into waiting, with maybe 100 people in front of myself and 500 people behind, a man approached me with an offer: “I have twenty bucks for you to pretend like me and my girl were waiting with you this whole time.” My ticket only cost $15; I made a $5 net profit on one man’s desperation to get into the concert.

Such was the mood of the night: the venue was much too small to support the demand to see a 20 year old Chicago rapper yet to headline his own show outside of Illinois. We queued two hours before the doors opened, and thirty minutes into waiting, a bar that could hold maybe 300 patrons commanded a line of rap fans stretching the entire block, many hoping for the rare opportunity of overflow sales at the door (there weren’t). Anxious grumbles permeated throughout when the bar owners predictably pushed the opening act an hour back, and things became so hopeless for some before the concert that one man was willing to subsidize my ticket (with some money left over for one drink I did not order) for the privilege of standing next to me.

Chance made quite an impression in Santa Barbara hours before he went on stage, and for his first solo act, he did everything in his power to make sure the crowd was not disappointed. There were hindrances to his goal: a crowd that could have been in a much bigger venue, a floor that was too brightly lit, a soundsystem worse than what one could find in a new Jeep Wrangler, and a set list too short to appease a crowd wanting every bit of Chance they could encounter. His set list including every song off his second mixtape Acid Rap but “Lost,” “That’s Love,” and “Everything’s Good,” a hefty majority of an excellent album, “Brain Cells,” a cut off his first mixtape “#10day,” and a cover of Kanye Wests’s “All Falls Down.” He only had an hour of presentable material, and for lesser performers, waiting two hours in line (plus a two hour drive from Los Angeles for many patrons) for a one hour show would be unacceptable, but Chance was so beloved the crowd gave him an enthusiastic pass.

Chance fans are a great sample of a new age of rap listeners, and the patrons inside the bar were as motley a crew as one could find at any rap concert. The two plump, white kids in front of me knew every word to every song; two ladies to the right of me looked to be beat poetry enthusiasts and were happy to lean and calmly gesticulate to the sounds; many of the wall riders were there to smoke weed and let the soundwaves roll over them. The festival kids were there to jump, the hip hop kids were there to bounce, and there was never much agreement among the crowd as to how to react to the music they universally enjoyed. Chance did his best to prompt an excited but confused crowd, and towards the end of his set there was some shared moments of ecstasy that reverberated throughout the venue.

Chance is a capable performer with much to learn. He doesn’t have to worry about the quality of his music, but he has to account for the gaps his songs create when his collaborators aren’t on stage. The crowd went wild when he started up “Cocoa Butter Kisses” and was ready to stay jacked throughout the entire song, but Chance cut the song short after his solitary first verse, a pattern he repeated with “Acid Rain,” “NaNa,” and “Favorite Song” (which included a hilarious intro). “Juice” sent the crowd into a predictable tizzy, though the night’s best moment was his encore performance of “Chain Smoker,” in which after gracing the mic with his impenetrable rapping ability, he spent three minutes repeatedly crooning the song’s beloved hook with the audience. To close out, Chance’s DJ Oreo bumped Drake’s “Versace” to a crowd that finally understood how to go crazy.

In between songs, Chance addressed the crowd, genuinely starstruck by an enthusiastic crowd in a city he’s never visited, playing his first solo show outside Chicago to a sold-out show that sang along with the 20 year old’s lyrics. “I fuck with this crowd,” he said after performing “Favorite Song,” the best compliment a lackluster but well-intentioned crowd could have gotten last night. Chance signed off by saying, “I want to do shows, and shows, and shows here, and I want you guys to be at all of them.” If his first performance indicates anything about the young rappers ridiculous potential, then I would be happy to attend all of them. I want you to be at all of them as well.

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