Mac Miller On a Roll

August 10, 2013, marks the last day of 21-year-old Mac Miller’s (Malcolm James McCormick) 38-city North American tour, The Space Migration Tour, which kicked off June 25, 2013, in Austin, Texas. On Tuesday night, photographer Pat Bombard and I attended Miller’s sold out New York City show at Hammerstein Ballroom to witness a live performance of his sophomore album, Watching Movies with the Sound Off, only recently released on June 18, 2013.

Miller, alongside the producer influences of Diplo, Flying Lotus and ID Labs, collaborated with Earl Sweatshirt, Jay Electronica, Action Bronson, Schoolboy-Q and Ab-Soul on Watching Movies with the Sound Off. According to Miller, this album was his gateway to fully embrace this idea of free-flowing thought and inner peace–turning the sound off–that produced introspective and self-reflective tracks, such as “Objects in the Mirror” or “Claymation:” “This life a prison it’s time to set free, Watching movies in silence describing what I see.” Miller told his hometown’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “But I think a lot of things in my life kind of impacted how I approached this record, and I think that the key to it was just shutting out all outside influence and kind of just finding it within myself.”

Miller’s The Space Migration Tour brought Vince Staples, The Internet and Chance the Rapper out as the opening performances, since they were artists from Miller’s own, newly-minted record label, REMember Music. The Space Migration Tour basically echoed what Miller rhymed in his single “S.D.S.”: “We here to reinvent music, let’s start a revolutionary.” Vince Staples and Chance the Rapper re-emphasized Miller’s hip-hop work (think his alter-ego Larry Fisherman), while The Internet re-emphasized Miller’s jazz work (think his pseudonym Larry Lovestein). So all four artists, some up-and-coming, brought themselves together to create a streamline fusion of their individual sounds that ultimately projected how today’s hip-hop music is changing, and is one big collaboration of sounds. Miller, alone, projected the above during his live performance.

A black-out graced Hammerstein Ballroom’s presence, which could have only meant one thing: Mac Miller was about to make his appearance. Thick fog shot out, creating a mirage of clouds and we, Miller’s audience, were migrating into space. Smartphones were raised, ready in the hand, to snap a picture or take a video. All of a sudden, coming out of the speakers overhead, a voice: “We’re about to begin the journey.” The bass got louder, alongside ethereal-inspired backbeats, as chaotic white lights moved in all directions, reminiscent of bright shooting stars in space. Greetings, Mac Miller.

Now despite Miller, sporting no shoes and a pair of baggy overalls, absolutely killing it up on stage from the start of his set to the encore, I admit it was hard not to be distracted by the ground feeling as though it might fall in or the hyped-up, itty-bitty teenagers running around (and screaming at the top of their lungs, mind you), throwing up because they can’t quite hold in their liquor yet or asking for weed from their fellow elder concert-goers, who were in the minority–shockingly. As Pat and I worked our way through the narrow hallways of backstage to meet up with Miller for a portrait before he went on stage, a security guard said to another, “There are so many white girls throwing up on themselves.” I could only hope that these rebellious, too-cool-for-school-mom-and-dad teens would settle down to actually enjoy and be impressed by the spectrum of Miller’s talent.

The spectrum of Miller’s set went from loud, intense hip-hop, like “Goosebumpz” or “Lucky Ass Bitch,” to slowed down, more emotional tracks, such as “Aquarium,” to tracks when Miller performed on the electric guitar and drum-set. Yes, it was quite impressive. During these self-reflective tracks, Miller recited his lyrics as though he was telling a story and, thankfully, the crowd was silent, looking on mesmerized because this 21-year-old artist really had powerful, honest lyrics. Miller, with only a spotlight on him, was now alone on the blacked-out stage. I felt that the audience was sharing this personal reflection with Miller, thinking on the mistakes we had made only to learn the hard lessons. The audience recognized that Miller had changed, grown up since his debut album, “lean addiction” and break-up with his girlfriend of four years: “When I was 17 I thought I had figured it out, Now I see what it’s about,” he sang in “Of The Soul.”

Of course, after getting deep, Miller had to create a counteraction. He energetically performed a tribute to the classic Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song. With a handle of Jameson in his right hand, Miller yelled into the mic, “New York City, what the fuck is good?” His time was cutting close, it was 11:00 p.m., but did Miller care? “We have two more. I don’t give a fuck. We’re on a roll. Fuck them,” he told the crowd. His audience went crazy in response, and those making an exit for the exodus home (because of the time) quickly re-entered upon hearing the sounds of “Donald Trump.” Miller, now down to a wife-beater that revealed his tattooed-sleeves and tattooed-neck, told his crowd he wanted “mother-fucking chaos.” And his audience delivered said chaos immediately.

As I left Hammerstein Ballroom, the bass still reverberating within my gut and clogging my eardrums as though they were stuffed with cotton balls, kids shuffled all around me dripping in sweat. I couldn’t help but wonder what sort of icon Mac Miller was going to make himself into for all of these kids. Something worthy of the hype I hope.
Photos By: Pat Bombard

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