With his work Danny Brown has always captured the relationship between struggle and celebration that is so central to Hip-Hop as a genre. Brown has never shied away from addressing darker issues with his music. Drug abuse and mental health issues have been common themes throughout his discography. At the same time, many of his songs are simply about having a good time - success, partying, sex. A fair amount combine these two seemingly contradictory ideas, and his show at the Fonda Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles, too, married the two with its atmosphere.
Brown's latest album is titled Atrocity Exhibition, named after a Joy Division song, which blasted over the speakers to a rowdy and cheerful crowd accompanied by a minimalist light show. The Closer track's lyrics depict the mentally ill on display in an asylum as if it were a carnival. This with the context of Joy Division front man Ian Curtis' suicide and Brown's own body of work and public statements made this opening scene on the stage an unsettling one. There is something uncomfortable about celebration in the midst of darkness - or possibly in this case celebration of darkness, a theme that was present not only in Brown's set but in that of his openers' as well (see Zelooper Z's raucous track "ISBD" - short for I Should Be Dead).
Coexisting with that air of discomfort, though, is a sense of beauty and of triumph. Through pain Danny Brown has proven that there can still be overwhelming pleasure. He himself exuded this joy on stage and so did the crowd, who danced, moshed, and rapped along for every single second of the night. Brown took the crowd through his discography, performing hits chronologically and covering fan favorite tracks from XXX and Old for the first two thirds of the show before getting to his latest work. All were met with an enthusiasm that far surpassed the average.
Despite the content of much of the music, the vibe of the night was entirely celebratory. With Danny, we celebrated the freedom and beauty of being alive, human, and imperfect. Throughout the night, the crowd was addressed casually by all three performers - Brown himself, and his opening acts Zelooper Z and Maxo Kream. The tone was immediately set by first opener Zelooper Z, a member of Brown's own Bruiser Brigade, as he spoke to the audience as if they were his friends, calling people in the crowd bruh bruh, and even jumping into the masses at the end of his set. Maxo Kream and Danny followed with sets that highlighted each of their individual sounds and personalities but that followed a similar format of performing songs and engaging in casual dialogue with the audience in between.
In no way do I mean to take away from any of these men's skills as performers, but the show didn't even feel like a performance. That in itself I'm sure involves a performative aspect, but the point I mean to make is that this concert, despite being large and loud, felt intimate. Even from my perch in the isolated balcony section, I could feel a sense of community in the room. Through struggle and pain, happiness and triumph, and an absolute willingness to turn up, we were all connected. To me, that is basically the point of art itself.
CAROLINE WILLIS, GENERAL MANAGER
(*Photos taken by LA record*)