Last Saturday’s sold out show at the Novo was one of the few times I truly felt immersed in the spirit of Los Angeles. Cuco and his line up of openers showed the audience what being a Los Angeles native meant to them. The concert was a night to celebrate a community and group of friends being able to perform in their hometown together. After a successful release of his debut album, Para Mi, the day before, Cuco delivered a satisfying mix of heartbreak, psychedelia, and southern Los Angeles to the venue.
Starting off the show’s line-up was Your Grandparents, a hip-hop trio consisting of performers BORNONTHECOAST, Jean Carter and producer Ghettoblasterman. As an opener they brought a diverse set to the table including a selection of songs off of their latest tape, Been Cold. Their set effortlessly moved between smooth vocal performances and gritty rap verses that caused the ground floor general audience to jump as if they were the act headlining the whole night. A stand out moment was the group’s posse cut, including verses from all three members and two extra guests brought out to the stage. It felt like a moment that could have been straight out of a performance at Camp Flog Gnaw and was incredibly exciting to watch. The sounds of Your Grandparents are versatile, and the performance itself was fun, engaging, and a great way to start a line up of amazing artists.
Next up in the night was USC favorite and Los Angeles sweetheart, UMI. Before her set even started she had the whole audience close their eyes to meditate and breathe together. With her mic stand covered in sunflowers, her positivity was palpable from the moment she got on the stage to the moment she left. UMI and her band were able to balance her unique and personal mix of R&B and soul throughout the entire set, there wasn’t a moment where her raw talent, and positive energy wasn’t shining through and giving the audience something everyone could feel connected to. Many fans of Cuco’s were already familiar with UMI going into the concert, so the moments where many audience members could recognize some of her more popular tracks and sing along were cool to see and be a part of. UMI and her band even gave a one song encore which made the end of her set harder to see.
After UMI was a quick latino themed DJ set from an unseen DJ in the venue that had people out of their seats and singing along, jamming to their favorite hits like Daddy Yankee’s “Gasolina.” This was until Cuco and his band came out, when every audience member in the Novo got on their feet or pushed as close as they could to the stage. Cuco walked out wearing a cropped black sweatshirt with a white shirt underneath, and started off his set with “Keeping Tabs”, a lively and psychedelic track that also starts his debut album. And despite being released the literal day before the concert, most of the crowd already recognized it, resulting in what was the perfect first release of energy building up the entire night in preparation for his set.
From here Cuco went between his earlier hits such as “Lover is a Day” and “Lo Que Siento”, and the songs off of Para Mi such as “Hydrocodone”, “Ego Death in Thailand”, and “Feelings”. With a mix of psychedelic visuals, heavy voice effects, and the support of his band, Cuco provided versions of his songs and an experience to consume his music the way he intended. The pacing of his set did suffer slightly due to some elements like his intense echo and voice effects that caused some of his slower songs to blur into each other. Some of the fans less familiar with his whole discography up to that point would probably have a hard time going back and identifying those songs and moments in his set. It didn’t make the set feel too long or drawn out like it could have, but it could definitely be an area to pay extra attention to going forward, especially while working in the genres of music that he is.
The climax of Cuco’s set was his performance of “Bossa No Se” featuring Jean Carter of Your Grandparents. Before starting he introduced Carter as one of his longtime friends and an important figure in his life. As the song continued, it seemed like everyone who was backstage came flooding out resulting in a crowded dance party on stage. It was the last show of Cuco’s tour, and the pure joy of being back in his hometown surrounded by friends and fellow Los Angeles natives and having the Novo to perform manifested itself at that moment in the concert and filled the room with something more special than just a well performed song, but a feeling of community that carried the momentum until the end of the night.
Cuco’s personality and creative vision for his music shined through his performance, and provided the venue with a wonderful mixture of all of the styles he’s known for at this point in his career. He has matured and expanded on these concepts in his most recent release, and was quickly able to integrate it into his live performance of an album that had just come out. While it could still use some fine tuning, Cuco was able to wrap up and encapsulate the energy of the night and Los Angeles as a city. He showed himself to not be just another independent artist who sings about love and acid, but a human personality who deeply cares about his origins and hometown and uses it as a source of his creativity to drive his career into the future.