“Can I get a ‘Lil Boat?’”
Our war cry, the boisterous chant of an army pledging allegiance to their captain. For about an hour and a half, Lil Yachty enscripted a legion of loyalists to dance and mosh on his behalf. Yet like on any voyage, the trip alternated between smooth sailing and being stuck in dead air.
Customarily, when a new ship prepares for its first launch, a bottle is smashed across its side to christen the voyage. In this sense, the openers for the concert, local hip hop group Curl Gang smashed a giant bottle across the Reno Event Center. They warmed the crowd up with a high-octane performance, loads of charisma and good stage presence. Impressively, the young performers rapped along to almost all the words of every song, demonstrating a knack for performing that doesn’t come easy. They ran into the inherent problem of being openers, however. The audience was not yet at full capacity, and few members of the crowd were familiar with their songs. Even during a passionate performance of their biggest song “Suck My D*ck” only a couple of voices were singing along.
Sauron was heralded by the mouth of Sauron, a ghastly figure who struck fear in their enemies and built up hype for their armies. Yachty, more contemporarily, was heralded by a DJ. Having a good DJ is underrated, their role in building suspense and loosening up the crowd can make or break a concert. The DJ for Yachty’s set was impressive — a medley of popular hip-hop with no real surprises. Playing popular songs that everyone knew meant that the crowd happily engaged with him, singing the choruses and jumping when their favorite song came on. When he played “Bad and Boujee” the energy was higher than some of Yachty’s own songs that he was performing live.
Finally, not too late but not too early, Yachty bolted out onto the stage. His stage production was nothing too fancy, but he still made an entrance jumping right into his harder songs. As a performer, Lil Yachty spent most of the night in great form. He rapped along to enough of each song to seem engaged, and knew when to let the crowd or the backing track take over to catch his breath. In between songs he wavered between being cool and being awkward. He made multiple comments about all of the “pretty girls” in the crowd, which might be cool if he was Trey Songs but just felt weird—though some of the crowd loved the shout-outs.
The quality of the concert seemed to directly correlate with the quality of the song Yachty was performing. During his hits, like “I Spy,” “Broccoli” and “Minnesota,” the crowd got off their feet and Yachty wowed with an infectious energy. When he played his lesser known songs, however, both him and the audience seemed bored. After one song that left the crowd dead he even admitted that he didn’t really know the lyrics to it — a casualty of not really having a well enough received catalog of music to fill up an entire set list with hits.
Despite occasional rough waters, Yachty docked the ship at port successfully with a powerful string of closing songs that brought the crowd together. During “One Night” he got the entire crowd to turn on their flashlights and people gladly sang along—the highlight of the concert to me. And then at the end of “66” the stage erupted in confetti, a celebratory send-off that made the concert feel bigger than it was. It wasn’t perfect, but no endeavor is, and as far as Welcome Week concerts go this one rocked the boat.
Vincent Rendon can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @VinceSagebrush.