Photography by Nina Corcoran
In celebration of opening their new global HQ in Boston, Converse has very nicely given Boston a week of free concerts in the guise of the Converse Fest. However, instead of going the usual route of cramming as many people as possible into the largest space available, they decided to cram some of the biggest names in music into one of Boston’s coziest clubs, the 550 capacity Sinclair located in Cambridge resulting in some very exclusive and sought-after tickets. Kicking off with The Replacements (who just played to thousands at Boston Calling last year) and Dinosaur Jr., the fest flipped through pop (Passion Pit), metal (Slayer), and started to wind down with the double header of Chance the Rapper and Action Bronson. In a college city like Boston, last night’s show perhaps had the biggest appeal.
Four days ago, Action Bronson headlined the local House of Blues, which has a capacity of 2,400. Last night, he opened for Chance the Rapper, who made his Boston headlining debut. It’s hard to believe, but in the whirlwind of popularity he experienced following 2013’s Acid Rap, the closest he got to headlining in Boston was a show at Wesleyan University in Connecticut and Colby College in Maine. It’s better late than never, especially with the prospect of a new album, Surf, dropping as soon as next week.
One of the best aspects of this Converse fest was its focus on local talent. Each night saw a Boston band open the show, and last night’s opening act was arguably the most popular. A big name around Boston, Michael Christmas recently just got back after a massive North American tour opening for Logic. Despite a slight delay due to a fire alarm going off (causing the entire venue — including artists — to evacuate), Christmas immediately got the crowd going and commanded the stage like a pro. It was a real homecoming for Christmas, and it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to imagine him headlining the venue one day.
Action Bronson followed, coming out to Prince’s “Purple Rain”, and immediately got the crowd’s attention with his laid-back yet captivating attitude. His set was mostly made up of cuts off of his latest album, Mr. Wonderful, though he did throw in a brief and fun cover of Biz Markie’s “Just A Friend”. If there’s one thing to take away from Action Bronson’s show, it’s that he loves to throw things into the audience. For reasons unknown, he started off with his right shoe before throwing a slew of free Converse shoes and gift cards. He then threw his left shoe (presumably for balance). This might sound aggressive, but it was really nothing but love from Action Bronson — especially considering he spent a good 20 minutes signing autographs and taking pictures with fans during the false fire evacuation.
However, the greatest draw for the majority of the audience was Chance. What could have been a victory lap for Acid Rap was actually a triumphant celebration of life. Backed The Social Experiment, a full band including a drummer, two keyboardists, and a trumpet player, Chance could hardly be contained. He immediately exuded a huge amount of confidence and positive energy as started bouncing, spinning around the stage, and dousing the audience with water. Rarely have I seen such a joyful performance. He didn’t let up over the course of the hour-long set, and his energy was absolutely infectious — for every surge of energy in the crowd, Chance doubled it and encouraged everyone to keep up.
The Social Experiment did a tremendous job of bringing Acid Rap and 10 Day (along with the now famous cover of “Believe In Yourself” aka the Arthur theme song) to life, sometimes completely revamping songs to give them an extra punch. In interviews, Chance is quick to note that he is simply a member of The Social Experiment, but live he walked on stage as if he was their conductor. In reality, it seemed like he was more the conductor of the audience, who religiously followed his every command and sang nearly every word back to him. “Cocoa Butter Kisses” was transformed into a massive singalong anthem with Chance repeating the hook a good four times before getting into the rest.
After some brief on-stage deliberation, Chance decided to close his main set with “Paradise”, a new song. “I’m just gonna pretend you all know the song … But I’ll sing you the hook: I believe that if I fly, I’ll probably end up somewhere in Paradise.” Though the song has yet to be released, it’s been somewhat of a staple of his set for the past year, and the crowd certainly seemed to be familiar with it. A short yet triumphant encore of “Everything’s Good” and “Chain Smoker” closed the show.
What stuck with me the most was Chance’s sheer lust for life. He is an absolute well of energy and truly loves his audience. “This is your show … This was for free, the album was for free, this is your music. This is the only place you can go and sing scream and jump as loud as you can. This your shit! Don’t let anyone tell you not to because this is your show!” Or perhaps he said it best during his extended version of “That’s Love”: “I love you.” And he repeated it over and over again until he was sure he reached every single person in the building.