Buying a concert ticket to see one of my favorite artists is what I imagine a football fan feels when watching their team play a Super Bowl Game. For me, the stakes are just as high and a grand celebration is just as warranted if the task at hand is completed. Scrambling to figure out if my schedule and bank account will let me make any forward progress, passing the information to all my interested friends, tackling the logistics of getting there, and finally rushing to the goal of the venue are all part of the game. It’s only once the goal lines of the admission gates have been crossed and the artist walks on stage that game clock ticks to zero. Then the cheers ring out, the confetti falls, and buzzes are caught like 45 yard passes.
In late December I bought tickets to see rappers Robb Bank$ and Da$h at the Bottom Lounge in Chicago on February 17th, and this is a chronicle of my (sort of) Windy City Super Bowl concert experience.
But before I get into the details of that Friday night in the city, I have to explain the Da$h situation.
Banks is headlining the Death of My Teenage Tour and Da$h, his friend, was originally booked as his co-headliner throughout the tour. Both artists are in my top ten list of favorite rappers out right now, so seeing them in the same place on the same night had me ready to throw a chair out my apartment window with excitement. But shortly after New Year’s, Da$h was arrested for “resisting arrest” and a couple other things I won’t speak on.
A week later Bank$ goes on Twitter and states that Da$h won’t be coming on the tour, and I wanted to again throw a chair out my window but this time out of frustration.
I live in Milwaukee and had I heard about either rapper playing a solo show in the Windy City, I still would have made the trip without hesitation. But hearing the news of Da$h’s arrest was like hearing that the Patriots were playing in the Super Bowl with Tom Brady but not Bill Belichick, or vice versa. There would still be a great chance of the night being a success but goddamn it, it would be nice if the other person were there.
Da$h and Bank$ have one song together, and it’s basically a 2016 version of a phenomenal Lil Wayne and Juelz Santana joint, and it’s one of my favorite songs of last year, so yea, I wanted to see that shit.
Past my own very selfish reasons for wishing he didn’t get locked up, it’s a shame Da$h had to get knocked right before embarking on a nationwide tour. I’m sure he’s fuming right now during whatever legal proceedings he’s going through. But he’s a great rapper so I’m sure this won’t be the last touring opportunity he has. #FREEDASH
UPDATE 3/11/17: Da$h is home!
I couldn’t find anyone to join me so I went alone, which was my first solo concert ever. I was a bit nervous in the hours leading up to the show but had some “liquid courage” with a friend before arriving to quell much of my anxieties. I arrived at the Bottom Lounge at about 7:45 pm. To get to the concert stage, you have to first walk through the main bar/restaurant area and I was immediately impressed with its vibe and how cool it was. It was a spacious and well-lit area with very high ceilings and cafeteria style high tables. The whole place was clean, vibrant, and chill, like a not-so-pretentious hipster bar. It even had a couple pinball machines that I wished I had time to play.
But this was in stark contrast to the stage area on the other side of the building which was dark, damp, and dirty, but not in a bad way. All the walls were painted a matte black that swallowed light and there was nothing hanging on them to speak of except for a few concert posters hung in the thin hallway leading to the bathrooms.
I’ve been to a lot of metal shows in murky venues like that one and you could just faintly make out the scent of sweat and a little bit of blood on the floor. A venue like that was not what I expected to find considering the forefront bar was so radically different. But I certainly wasn’t mad at it because it was the perfect kind of environment to “leave it all on the floor” as “they” say. And I definitely didn’t plan on standing still for the whole concert.
But another thing I didn’t expect when I walked in was the utter lack of people there. I was surprised and a bit deflated to see roughly 150 attendees total, maybe less. Granted, in the right venue, a crowd of that size can seem 3 times as large but here it felt meager because it could actually hold 3 times as many people. There was so much open space that everyone could get within 7 feet of the stage. There were barely enough people for a reasonable crowd surf for happen.
I thought Chicago would come out in bigger numbers for Bank$ since he’s getting more popular, but I was mistaken. He initially gained popularity on Tumblr, dropping his debut mixtape Calendars in 2012 and developing a following from there. Over the next few years, he released a handful of mixtapes, leading up to his debut album Year of the Savage coming out in October of 2015 through 300 Entertainment’s Dorian Distribution. The album led to him headlining a nationwide tour and playing at the Rolling Loud music festival in Miami in 2016, both of which he is doing for a second time this year.
In January of this year, Bank$ signed a distribution deal with Cash Money which is definitely a sign that he’s picking up major steam in the industry (but let’s just hope Birdman actually pays him and releases his music, unlike Bank$’s idol Lil Wayne [allegedly]). Also, according to some of his lyrics, Bank$ has turned down being on the XXL Freshman list twice. But that might change this go-round.
With this substantial surge in his popularity, combined with the fact that Chicago is the 3rd largest city in the country and a general music hub for the entire Midwest, I expected a good amount of people to be there. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t a huge deal that there weren’t.
I found a comfortable spot on the left side of the stage and vibed as a DJ named Lord Rockwell played some solid hits underground and mainstream rap hits. He also took requests from the crowd via Twitter which was very cool. I requested a Da$h song, of course.
Sidebar: The song I requested was Mudd Walk which is one of his most energetic and wild songs (produced by Metro Booming too) and I thought it would get a good reaction out of the crowd there but I think I was the only person that actually knew the song. Maybe part of the reason the concert was so poorly attended was because Da$h wasn’t there so his fans stayed home? But who can really say?
After a few songs, a rapper named Ill Chris came on stage and played a rather uninspired 4 song set. He didn’t have a lot of energy or much of a stage presence so I was doing more people watching than anything else during his performance. Sorry, bro.
He got off stage and Lord Rockwell informed us that Wifisfuneral would not be coming to the show at all because he was stuck at the airport. I was only mildly disappointed because the only people on this updated tour lineup whose music I actually knew were Robb Bank$ and Ronny J. But the reason I was disappointed at all was that marked another person that would be absent from this Chicago stop, a person I technically paid money to see, but what can you do?
Lord Rockwell did a couple more spins then brought out Ronny J. I was only familiar with his outstanding production credits, I had no idea he rapped too.
He did a damn good job of getting the crowd hyped with his mosh-worthy song choices and a couple stage dives. The instant his last song finished, Bank$ came on stage and the place erupted. For a brief second the venue actually seemed like it was at full capacity. Bank$ cut the lights and opened with his banger “Bett”, to which everyone started jumping and thrashing in complete darkness save for a few camera phone lights.
“Phone Talk” was next and “Innadat” followed. It was at this point he mentioned that Chicago was his 2nd home and he always has mad love for the city. He then mentioned he could only play 6 songs total, which had me cursing and throwing my hands in the air for all the wrong reasons. I wasn’t upset with him that was just me expressing my aggravation with the chain of vexing events I experienced related to the show as a whole. That announcement meant his performance was already half over while, to me, it was only just getting started.
But he understood how limited his time was and let the crowd pick his remaining songs. “It Wasn’t Me” was chosen next and half way through that song a fight broke out to my immediate left.
I look over and see 2 women with thick handfuls of two other women’s hair and their faces in agonizing grimaces as they tried to pull away. There were a few punches thrown before security rushed in an pried the women away from one another. All the while Bank$ never stopped rapping and actually moved get as close to the fight as possible while still remaining on stage. He was pointing and swaying side-to-side to mimic the ebb and flow of the tug human vs hair tug of war happening below. And it was at that point I started laughing my ass off.
Bank$ has great stage presence – he bounces around from one part of the stage to other for a bit brief period before picking a front row section of fans whose faces and phones he can rap directly into, all the while giving daps and high fives. He enunciates his words and raps the majority of his bars without too much need for a hype man.
Once the dust from the 30 second scrap settled, the debate over song number 5 started and an unreleased song was chosen. When it started, Bank$ dropped his mic and jumped into the crowed. Then both men and women damn near trampled each other to get within arm’s reach of him. He was illuminated by a 360 spotlight of a dozen camera phone lights, but I was separated from the action by a 10 foot wall of sweating bodies and couldn’t see exactly what was going on inside the small huddle. Eventually the Lord Rockwell handed him a mic and he rapped every third bar for half a verse before hopping back on stage, looking exhausted, and stopping the song before it finished.
After a water break he played “Pressure”, a personal favorite of mine, as his last song and I used that as an opportunity to burn as much energy as I could jumping, mobbing, and rapping along like a crazy person with a handful of others that shared the sentiment.
And with that, the show was over. The crowd started to disperse but Bank$ said he would stick around and take photos with fans, which I thought was really cool of him to do. A lot of artists now charge extra for meet and greets so it was nice to see him putting fan service over his bank account’s service – that’s how you build loyalty and eventually more revenue down the line anyway. And it’s just a generally nice thing to do.
But rather than get a selfie, I ventured back into the brisk Chicago air having ultimately been satisfied with the experience. Bank$’s short setlist and Da$h being absent were major letdowns but those were things out of their control (maybe not Da$h completely but you know what I mean). And it was still an entertaining show for what it was. Having the opportunity to act a fool to a few songs I’ve been playing way too loud, way too often for the past year with the artist himself and other dedicated fans was the whole reason I went. I got what I came for. It wasn’t the blow out Super Bowl extravaganza I was expecting initially but I’m still glad I got to be there.