White Oak Music Hall
September 30, 2018
Family outings,…they can be painful, right? Either you’re cornered by some sauced-up uncle who wants to explain why, no really, just hear me out, the earth is flat from end-to-end; or, you’re stuck with a bunch of folks shying away from any meaningful interaction and just trying to get through the entire ordeal by consuming mass quantities of potato salad and keg beer.
The best kind of family outing is the sort where you meet all the relatives who are like-minded and hip. You may not know them that well, but they’re chatty, funny and creative individuals who bring good vibes to the gathering. Watsky’s “Welcome to the Family” tour stop last night at White Oak Music Hall was that type of get-together. The tour takes its name from a newly-released single from the rapper but it’s a double entendre since every act on the bill features members of Watsky’s touring band. The moniker also considers that the artist is still adding new fans to the fold. He was happy to gaze upon the White Oak huddled and reflect back on his first Houston show at Warehouse Live, with a paid attendance of about 13, per his recollection, and see how the family’s grown.
Near the end of a set which was heavy on songs from 2014’s All You Can Do and its follow-up, x Infinity, he told the crowd that he was asked about a decade ago what his ideal future as an artist might look like.
“When I described it, it looked exactly like this,” he said to an ovation. “And, I’m not shitting you just to make you feel warm and bubbly at the end of night. I was like, if I could play 400-person clubs for the rest of my life and people show up and they care about my music and they like it, that would make me feel like a fucking superstar.”
If you’ve been to a Watsky show, you understand the intimacy that makes the gathering more significant. There’s a bond between artist and audience that doesn’t exist when the ticket you’ve paid for is in the upper deck of a basketball arena. He told the audience the entire band went to the Drake/Migos show in town Saturday night. They had fun, he said. This was better.
The audience agreed, right from the first song, “Welcome to the Family,” which begins with the apropos lines, “Hello, hello, hello, hello,…it’s a motherfucking pleasure.” The songs ends on the tender note, “You deserve love,” and some warm keys, which then gave way to a bombastic version of “Moral of the Story,” complete with crunching guitars that made someone near me yell, “Sammy Hagar!” Maybe it’s the long locks Watsky’s sporting for the tour, but he was in full rock star mode, looking a little Joey Ramone-like in a white tee and jacket, standing tall over the crowd, and, near the end of the night, actually atop it as fans hoisted him higher into the air. The crowd helped the rock and roll vibe by chanting “Watsky! Watsky!” to open the show and then again – albeit faster, perhaps inspired by his machine-gun-quick cadence – for the encore. The show ended on a blistering note, with the rebel yell of “Whoa Whoa Whoa” and “Bet Against Me,” ahead of the encore, which was the “Tiny Glowing Screens” trilogy in its entirety.
After offering a song so new it can’t be found in recorded version anywhere yet, (“Feeling Alright,” which featured a half-dozen audience provided primal screams at the artist’s request), Watsky said he was going to perform an older track, Cardboard Castles’ “Sloppy Seconds.” He told the audience it had a new arrangement and hoped that would be okay.
“We trust you!” an audience member yelled. And Watsky seemed to believe it. He’s earned that trust from close-knit members of the family he’s pulled together. The song was pared down to something near a capella, with light keys behind him and bandmate Camila Recchio doing a slower version, duet-style. When he was done and the applause finished, he thanked every member of the family for trusting him.
"We only have a little bit of time on this blue marble and we have to appreciate the moments," he told the crowd, "and, I'm appreciating this one."
The Openers: Watsky’s tour vocalist, Camila Recchio, and his longtime producer, Kush Mody, have joined forces for Feed the Biirds, which opened last night’s set. They spell “biirds” with two i’s because you’ll wanna keep two open for their future work. Recchio’s vocals are soulful. Later in the night, she’d play the Kate Nash role for “Hey, Asshole” to the audience’s delight, but by then she’d already won them over with solid vocals on pop tracks like “Amato” and a cover of the Kinks’ “Strangers.” The duo has sizzling chemistry and the audience seemed to read so much into it that Recchio felt obliged to tell everyone their mutual love was strictly platonic. After a well-received track, Recchio told the audience she felt a little piece of her heart jump out of her at their affirmation.
Watsky drummer Chukwudi Hodge moved to the front from the back of the stage for his set of rap songs, sandwiched between the opener and headliner. He chatted frequently with the audience, explaining that “Denim Girl” was written for his girlfriend for encouraging them to cast off their frustrations by chanting along to “The Fade,” which was the lone track he drummed on during his well-received set. He played the mindful relative at this gathering, spotting a grade schooler perched on her dad’s shoulders and telling her she may hear some words that she should “keep in her bag” and not repeat until she’s much older.
Personal Bias: Any time I can be at a concert with one of my kids watching an artist they turned me onto, it’s a good night. Last night was a good night.
The Crowd: Sons, daughters-in-law, wives, cousins, nephews, nieces, adopted siblings.
Random Notebook Dump: Watsky’s Houston crowds are enthusiastic and growing. If you were at the show last night, bring a few friends along when he returns in February as promised and let’s keep adding to the family.
Watsky Set List
Welcome To the Family
Moral of the Story
Brave New World
All Like Whatever
Talking to Myself
All You Can Do
Whoa Whoa Whoa
Bet Against Me
Tiny Glowing Screens Parts 1, 2 and 3