Duckwrth brings new music, same old charisma to New Parish

photo of Duckwrth performing
Tara Byers/Courtesy

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In a quaint Oakland venue full of hip-hop fans — some with little-to-no knowledge about the night’s headliner and many others with intimate knowledge of his alternative rap projects — the only known certainty was this: The pink-haired man on stage was going to be a star one day, if he hadn’t earned that title already. 

Duckwrth flaunted the fluidity of his catalogue’s sound at the New Parish on Sept. 7 in a concert that briefly featured the artist’s friend Jordan Ward. Despite the closeness built into the New Parish, dramatic lighting from the tech crew and Duckwrth’s punk-edged showmanship allowed the show to straddle both thrasher energy and in-your-feelings intimacy at will. When throwing it back to the moshpit sound of an earlier project “Nowhere,” the artist was able to command some movement from his audience in the limited floor room by jamming out under flashing red lights. During his more minimal numbers, however, the artist maintained a subtle and smooth groove, leaving his audience to settle into a herd captivation by his vibrant aesthetic.

Despite the limited potential for dancing, the crowd was consistently emphatic with its vocal participation. During the upbeat hit “Tuesday,” a song about treating your work day like the weekend, Duckwrth’s audience repetitively chanted “get it” with all the emphasis of a people who had, indeed, gathered for a fun night out during the middle of the week. The artist sonically thrived in the freedom given to him by such a responsive audience, rapping hard on the verses while letting his audience handle the overlapping lyrics of the chorus. Beloved songs from his third album, such as “Money Dance” and “Super Bounce,” were also prime examples of the chemistry between the night’s audience members and their leader of youthful energy, who was able to maintain a balanced trinity between himself, a glowing backup singer and a captive audience.

Though Duckwrth had left his fans little time to get familiar with the new album SG8*, as it was only released a week prior to his performance, there was no hype lacking when the artist transitioned to his newest music. During a performance of the record’s opening track “We Outside,” the rapper guided his viewers through a subtle dance and sing-a-long section to the chorus’ question, “Was your pandemic poppin’?” While wrapping up the show later in the night, he even surprised the audience by jumping once more into the tune, effectively testing the engagement. Through the magic of muscle memory, the crowd recalled both the lyrics and their corresponding arm movements with impressive unison and enthusiasm.

Although Duckwrth managed to hold his audience’s attention without relying on all of his biggest hits, the undeniable highlight of the night came when he pulled out his beloved anthem from last year’s SuperGood album: “Kiss U Right Now.” The fans’ sweet anticipation for this number was fulfilled instantaneously at the drop of the bass and the song’s first line, “I think I want to kiss you.” The singer savored his most vocal-heavy song for a few choruses before allowing the band to take the reins. Fresh piano chords and soulful guitar riffs created a euphoric addition to a usually simplistic song, and the sheer glee of the audience remained palpable into the night’s end.

Just as Duckwrth is a noncommercial rapper-songwriter who has held a purposefully erratic relationship with his own genre for around a decade, it’s only fitting that his concert felt like a random kickback with mosh tendencies. Judging by the buzz of his audience at the end of the show, it was clear that Duckwrth left concertgoers feeling as carefree as his writing style and hungry to live out his “Tuesday” philosophy.

Nurcan Sumbul covers music. Contact her at [email protected].