Word to the wise: If you ever get the opportunity to see your favorite “independent” artist during their first headlining tour — wherein they’ve just gained enough clout and fame to fill moderately sized ballrooms and clubs throughout the country — do not miss that show. Break plans, find a sitter, get a date or whatever it is you need to do to make sure you go, just go.
So, when Young Thug announced he’d be coming to (sort of) nearby San Francisco as part of the Hi-Tunes tour, I took no chances. I bought a ticket the day they were released and vowed to go, come hell or high water. Previously, I’d missed this one-of-a-kind opportunity when The Weeknd set off on his first tour back in 2012, and I wasn’t about to do it again. It’s a unique experience, and chances are that artist will be too big next time around to ever replicate it. What you’ll get is simply the artist, their music and their energy emanating from the stage. No theatrics, no props or grand stage designs or pyrotechnics. Just the artist and their music.
Plus, at this stage of their career, it will only be the diehards who show up to see the show, the most devoted devotees hanging on every word and shouting every lyric at the stage. The energy is distinct, palpable and inescapable. To intimately experience an artist while surrounded by likeminded enthusiasts is a remarkable experience that has to be had.
After a few of my boys flaked, I set up a backup plan where I’d get dropped off solo and hope to link up with some Bay Area accomplices there. My friend Allen stepped in, offered a ride to the show, and we made the 90-minute journey to the Bay.
At the venue, we met up with my boy Trell and we quickly decided to take Gotty’s advice and put a fair amount of distance between us and the jovial, energetic teens and early 20-somethings in the crowd. They were as diverse as could be, an expectation for not only a Bay Area outing, but for a show headlined by a rapper as defiantly weird as Young Thug. There were hipsters in man-buns, hypebeasts in Supreme five-panel hats and tattered sneakers, Bay Area dreadheads, ratchets and everything in between. The last thing I needed was some kid in a beat-up pair of Nike Janoskis bumping me too hard while he was “raging.”
We found a safe haven in the balcony seating, grabbed a few drinks and began the dreadful two-hour opening act parade before Thug would hit the stage. An unnamed DJ elicited boos from the crowd as he spun early ’90s and late ’80s rap completely oblivious to the crowd he was spinning for. An unnamed local opener slogged through a quick 20-minute set that nobody was paying attention to. Finally, the next DJ resuscitated the anxious crowd by dropping records from this decade, and shut the building down with a couple of Mac Dre’s greatest hits and Travi$ Scott’s “Antidote.”
The energy was finally back when Bay Area legend Husalah took the stage for his set that was half-retro novelty and half-The Jacka memorial. Even still, the response was tepid as it was clear the now, nearly-full ballroom was eager to see Young Thug.
Eventually, he waltzed onto the stage decked out in a 49ers Starter jacket and a pair of black Yeezy 350s to the sounds of his first digital hit “2 Cups Stuffed.”
From there, Thug hopped between his oldest buzz records: “Pass Me the Hookah,” “Stoner,” “Blanguage” and of course “Danny Glover” to warm the crowd up.