[Originally published 1/15/2011]
Who: Mac Miller (and Casey Veggies)
If the booming chorus of boys missing nary a syllable of “Nikes on My Feet” and the piercing squeals of girls weren't evidence enough of Mac Miller's demographic, his crowd check confirmed it. “How many of you guys go to school?” he asked. Thunderous shouts. “How many of you are happy you're here, and not in school?” Deafening roar.
After OFWGKTA's Tyler the Creator had stormed around the stage like a Tasmanian devil, he and opening act Casey Veggies pulled teen-thin outstretched arms onto the stage to “cook” with them. The girls were more experienced as grinders than master chefs, and the bouncer standing next to me onstage said, “I'm scared to even look at those girls.” The doorman had checked my ID three times, holding it up to the light, passing it to another man for inspection. “You look like jailbait,” he said, handing it back. No, it's just that every other girl there really was.
Music industry's dream focus group, this audience: every single person I asked has been following Mac Miller “since he came out.” But Miller, who's 18, signed with Pittsburgh's Rostrum Records only last summer, and has produced mixtapes, but no albums yet. Nothing's novel about a rapper marketing himself online in order to build the kind of buzz that sells out tours long before he ever has a radio hit; if Miller's label mate Wiz Khalifa didn't write that blueprint, then he perfected it. What's new is that this might be the first generation that's never bought a cd, never first discovered someone through radio and videos.
Bouncing as if on a pogo stick, Miller danced his way through a set that included many of the tracks from his last mixtape, K.I.D.S., the happy-go-lucky soundtrack of a high school senior's spring semester. His songs are unavoidable, a one-two punch of hip-hop-poppy beats and Ferris Bueller-like lyrics. Miller's polish as a performer belies his age–even with a show that required sustained House of Pain stamina, he never lost his breath nor seemed tired. Wait … maybe that affirms his age. Still, he's sophisticated enough to control the crowd instead of letting its energy control his show.
Obviously, the internet shapes fiercely devoted, eager fans; in the crowd last night, there was none of the fronting and restraint that can mar audiences in L.A. The hot girls guys pulled into their pictures smiled gamely. After taking a photo of a group of the girls who'd danced onstage earlier, one asked, “Do you want me to take a picture of you on the stage, too?” Two eighteen-year-old twin guys who'd been driven up from Orange County by their mom and her boyfriend (who was throwing 'bows!) bought t-shirts and hoped Miller would come out and sign them. We all, myself included, were giddy and glowing after the show, and not just from the sweat Mac Miller had induced. “Fuckin' sick ass show tonight….LA showed massive love,” Miller tweeted at midnight. Guess everybody was feelin' it.