Arts & Culture

Party On The East Coast: A Night with Matoma, Elephante, and Youngr

Biggie famously raps, “Sipping on booze in the House of Blues, what it do!” on Matoma’s track, “Party On The West Coast,” and I felt pretty lucky to find myself in a similar situation this past Friday, albeit with less booze.

The night began with Youngr, a multi-talented musician from the U.K. Openers can be hit or miss, but Youngr fulfilled the task of getting the crowd hyped for the night flawlessly with his enthusiasm and easy charisma. His music was awesome to see performed live, as “multi-talented” is no understatement. He was within a ring of instruments and equipment: singing, drumming, and mixing seamlessly. My personal favorites he performed included his song, “Monster,” which he expressed is “for the daydreamers,” “Sweet Disposition – Bootleg,” and his remix of Gorillaz’s “Feel Good Inc.” Even for those unfamiliar with Youngr, “Feel Good Inc” served as a fun singalong.

I got a chance to speak with Dario Darnell after the show, who told me that “Youngr,” his stage name, is actually his middle name (“so it is me”), but also represents a more “extreme version of [him]” that allows him to channel the contagious, positive stage energy that makes him so compelling to watch. Darnell cited Lady Gaga, Calvin Harris, and Pharrell as influences, and Sigrid and Prince as his dream collaborators.

The second opener was Elephante, a Los Angeles-based DJ who would probably strike you as any normal guy if you saw him on the street in his flannel and jeans. Elephante performed a pretty standard DJ set with bass-filled remixes of favorites like “Mr. Brightside,” “7/11,” and “Habits (Stay High).” He also performed one of his new songs, “The Inbetween,” which featured soft vocals opposite a strong beat. As far as stage presence goes, he did stay behind his equipment most of the time and the set started to feel a little long, but that might be because I was getting a little impatient for Matoma at that point. 🙂

I thought I was getting tired, but once Matoma took the stage around 10:30, he managed to promptly energize the crowd with his own enthusiasm. I personally really started to get into it with his sampling of one of my childhood favorites, Wilson Phillips’s “Hold On” (side note: if I felt old looking at the sea of hands with “x”s on them, having the guy next to me in the press pit ask what song it was really cemented it).

Admittedly, I was wondering when Matoma would get to performing the hit “Old Thing Back,” which he has credited as his breakout track, and he played it just a few songs in. Sometimes artists save those types of tracks for the end of a concert, and I thought it was an interesting choice to put it so early in the show. Sometimes doing so can wear out audience enthusiasm and make it so there isn’t much to look forward to (*cough Ludacris at Modstock 2015 cough*). However, it was a perfect decision now that I look back on the concert as a whole. The laser light show and canons of confetti only served to set the tone for a fun-filled night ahead of us. Other favorites of mine he performed included “Girl at Coachella” and “Wonderful Life (Mi Oh My).”

DJ concerts are sometimes hit or miss, given there’s not the live vocalist, guitarist, and drummer on stage, and it takes a lot of energy to make it a compelling experience. Matoma proved to be more than capable of making the night memorable with his spirited nature and emotion. His passion was never more clear than when he teared up toward the end of his set. Even after an incredible encore featuring some of his best songs such as “False Alarm,” “Staying Up,” and “All Night” alongside samples of throwbacks like “All I Do Is Win,” it still seemed like the crowd wanted more.

Luckily for me, the night wasn’t over, and I got a chance to hang out with Matoma backstage and ask him a few questions. I think a lot of us envision stars as being somewhat cocky, jaded, or elitist, but Matoma, also known as Tom Stræte Lagergren, is quite literally the polar opposite of this. I can say with zero exaggeration that Lagergren is easily one of the most caring and friendly people I’ve ever met, celebrity-status aside. Back in the green room, we met another audience member who he’d noticed in the crowd and invited backstage, as well as some of his fans and supporters from the earliest days who now travel with him. Making his signature “Matoma” drink (the recipe’s a secret, sorry!) for his friends, it was clear he’s the picture of down to earth.

“It’s the story around the person that makes you unique. And when people say you are one in a million, it’s not because it’s the phrase that is cliché, it’s because I really mean it. I think everyone has their own story and [is] truly one in a million.”

Lagergren talked about the new song he had opened with, “One In A Million,” with such earnestness and sincerity, saying, “That song is just a message that everybody is one in a million,” and, “It’s the story around the person that makes you unique. And when people say you are one in a million, it’s not because it’s the phrase that is cliché, it’s because I really mean it. I think everyone has their own story and [is] truly one in a million.”

As for Matoma’s new album, which is slated to be released this May, expect eclectic. “The new album is going to be something you haven’t heard from Matoma at all,” Lagergren’s friend Charles Wolbers told us. “It’s going to be very progressive and there’s going to be a wide variety of artists featured. You’re not going to be able to put this album in a box.”

Of course, I’d be remiss not to mention one particularly amazing aspect of Matoma’s tour: it’s all climate positive. Lagergren, being the humble guy he is, didn’t even mention it, let alone brag about it, so I’m glad Wolbers told me about it. Pairing up with the UN’s Climate Neutral Now Initiative and the Norwegian company Chooose, the One in a Million tour measures all of its greenhouse gas emissions (particularly CO2 per person), aims to reduce these emissions as much as possible, and then donates to charities to off-set the footprint with an additional 15%.

I left the House of Blues on a first name basis with Matoma, and I couldn’t have been more impressed with not only the energetic show of stellar music he and his openers put on, but also by everyone’s kindness and positivity. Suffice it to say, I’ll be counting down the days until the new album drops.

Photos © The Rock at BC, Trish Jackson

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