Chronicles of ups, downs of many 2022 concerts including Charli XCX, Lady Gaga, 100 gecs, The Ophelias
YOU HAVE HEARD of high school yearbook superlatives. Now, get ready for Mo App-Singer’s concert superlatives, the best place for your non-definitive 2022 concert hot takes. From Outside Lands to Lady Gaga, here’s the lowdown on some of the best (and worst) shows of the year, straight from someone who has seen upwards of 45 live music events so far.
Biggest Disappointment: Charli XCX at the Crystal Ballroom
Charli XCX hopefully needs no introduction. She is a quintessential pop girl who gained a cult following while making campy hyperpop with Beyoncè collaborator A.G. Cook and the late great SOPHIE. “How I’m Feeling Now” is arguably one of the best albums of 2020, and potentially Charli’s magnum opus. Her newest album “Crash,” on the other hand, is less of an exciting collision and more of a bland detour. To make it worse, the hyperpop sensibilities are traded for flavorless disco revival, reminiscent of the blandest radio hits from the last few years. The album feels tired, and so does her set. I have heard people praise her show as life-changing, but I found myself smushed in the crowd and ready to go home five songs in. It is worth noting that Charli’s opener, Baby Tate, was significantly better in every way, from how she conducted the crowd to the songs she played. Baby Tate played all her best songs, while Charli played “Crash” in almost its entirety, which may have been fun for people who liked the album more than I did. Her lackluster visuals, migraine-inducing strobes and limp choreography, however, did little to hide the fact that the music she was singing was the most boring it has been for years.
Biggest Surprise: Dorian Electra, Lil Mariko and Death Tour at the Wonder Ballroom
Dorian Electra is a flamboyant musical genius and hyperpop-era Charli XCX collaborator. They are a nonbinary icon obsessed with steampunk iconography, and have made an entire album satirizing the culture of online “incels,” or men who claim to be involuntarily celebate at the hands of women they wish to date. I saw them play at the Wonder Ballroom earlier this year alongside sugary-sweet scream rapper Lil Mariko and metal band Death Tour. I was expecting a good time, but Dorian delivered more than I ever expected. Everyone seemed to be dancing, screaming and singing along the entire night. Death Tour’s raucous performance of “PORN!” launched mosh pits. Lil Mariko screamed “Where’s My Juul,” and even those without a nicotine addiction sang along. Dorian closed out the night with “Career Boy,” a song about capitalism that even my mother loves. I also got the final page of Dorian’s setlist. It was a night to remember, to say the least.
Coolest Lead Singer of an Indie Rock Band: Spencer Peppet of The Ophelias (Volcanic Theater Pub)
During their performance at Outside Lands, 100 Gecs played an acoustic version of their track “gecgecgec”, and unreleased music off their forthcoming album “10000 gecs.”
are the backbone of my concert-going experience. I saw The Ophelias at VTP when they opened for the Bad Bad Hats in late May, and instantly became obsessed with their work. The band’s wistful indie pop was complemented by the intimate feel of the venue, as I bought merch directly from lead singer Spencer Peppet who later read my poetry over Instagram direct messages. Regarding the band’s music, I recommend “General Electric,” “Crocus” and “Moon Like Sour Candy,” which are all great introductions to their dreamlike sound. Check them out and buy their music on services like Bandcamp, as it is the best way to support their amazing work.
Best Kandi Recipient: Laura Les of 100 gecs (Outside Lands, at the Binging with Babish Culinary set)
Laura Les can do it all, whether that is splitting your eardrums or cooking chili frito pie at Outside Lands, an annual music and culinary festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. She is a member of the hyperpop duo 100 gecs. Her pitched-up wails on songs such as “Money Machine” (alongside Brady) and “Haunted” (a former solo deep cut that was launched into fame through HBO’s “Euphoria”) are enjoyed by her dedicated fanbase. A lot of her discography, including the stellar extended play “hello kitty skates to the fuckin CEMETARY,” are only available on Bandcamp or YouTube. Regardless, I implore you to give her music a listen if you enjoy brain-tickling noise.
At Outside Lands, she and Brady were featured on the festival’s unique “Gastromagic” stage, where famous chefs join billed artists in cooking food for the eager audience. When it came time for the gecs to take the stage, they were accompanied by an equally online chef, Andrew Rea of the YouTube channel Babish Culinary Universe (formerly Binging with Babish.) Rea is known for his offbeat charisma and real-life versions of fictional food. I handed Laura two pony bead bracelets from across the barricade as she handed out chili cheese frito pie. She put them on, and the unbiased journalist in me combusted while a squealing fangirl rose from the ashes. She and Brady also played a fantastically noisy set later that day, which I was at the barricade for. It was a euphoric day for me as a huge fan of her solo work and 100 gecs in general.
Best Festival with the Worst Press: Coachella
Despite the negative press the Indio, Calif. festival received this year, I will defend my experience there with my whole chest. Maybe it is only because I did not have to wait for the Revolve Fest shuttle line or get trampled by influencers trying to make a TikTok during Weekend One, but Coachella Weekend Two was nothing like the experience I saw documented online. It was the most fun I think I have ever had, and there were almost too many moments that exemplified that feeling. There was Kim Petras’ danceable rendition of “Coconuts.” Baby Keem brought his uncle Kendrick Lamar onstage for “Family Ties,” and Karol G performed an emotional love letter to modern South American and Latin music. 100 gecs were able to complete their set despite being cut off halfway through their biggest hit the weekend before. Doja Cat performed a rock switch up of “Say So” on the main stage, and Belarus’s Molchat Doma played “Sudno”’ in a packed rave tent. Coachella was a delight. So unless your critique of Coachella surrounds the festival’s contamination of drinking water that has affected migrant workers, or bringing up the poor business practices (and bigotry) of Goldenvoice, I will stand by my assertion that you clearly did not go to the desert for Weekend Two.
Best Concert of the Year: Lady Gaga at Dodger Stadium
What more can I say about Lady Gaga that has not already been said? She is an icon and a visionary. She made the masterpiece that is ARTPOP and tragically did not play a single song from it on the Chromatica Ball tour. Her costume changes and backup dancers were extravagant. She made me cry when she played “Born This Way” cabaret-style on piano, before triumphantly switching to the dance pop version halfway through. Everything about her performance was carefully calculated, including the wristbands given to the audience that colorfully lit up to the beat of the music. The light show was a spectacle considering the size of the stadium. There is not much to praise Gaga for that is not already in print, but her show was the best I have seen this year, and as evidenced by this article, I have seen a lot of live music so far.