Explaining why everyone should make an effort to attend at least one artist’s hometown show in their lifetime isn’t really something that can be broken down in an easy-to-read list form. Overall, it’s about the experience. Passion, dedication and energy between both the artist and crowd are a common theme that runs through hometown shows whether they be mainstream acts at massive pavilions or up-and-comers at hole-in-the-wall bars. Quite simply, there’s just something about seeing an artist perform in their hometown that should be experienced by everyone.
I was raised on pop music, gravitated to rock/alternative in my formative years and have an appreciation for hip-hop, so it’s safe to say I would see almost any artist live for the sake of seeing live music. I say this because anyone who personally knows me would be surprised I willingly saw and was actually excited to see Wiz Khalifa perform this past August. Outside of genuinely liking a few of his tracks, the main reason for this was the chance to see him on his home turf of Pittsburgh.
Wiz headed out across the country on his Under the Influence of Music tour with support from Jeezy (who had apparently now dropped his “Young” title), Sage the Gemini/Iamsu, Ty Dolla $ign, Rich Homie Quan, Mack Wilds and DJ Drama, a lineup that had the sold out crowd of 23,000 at the First Niagara Pavilion going early in the afternoon until late that evening.
Almost every artist made mention of being in Wiz’s hometown, yelling for the crowd to get pumped up as if the puffs of weed smoke and cans of beer littering the ground combined with the fact both the pit and lawn areas were literally packed like a can of sardines weren’t enough of an indication that the crowd was indeed pumped.
Just hearing Wiz’s name spoken by previous acts sent the crowd into a tizzy, but when the man of the hour hit the stage, it was like being in another world. Wiz appeared to feed off the energy by jumping around and even bringing people up on stage for the length of a song. The highlight, however, was the next level of excitement that happened when “Black and Yellow” was up on the set list.
He thanked his hometown throughout the night, many of who had probably been there since the beginning when he was a just a student at Taylor Allderdice, the high school that even inspired the name of his 2012 mixtape.
Wiz may be famous enough now to have his tumultuous relationship status with Amber Rose covered by the likes of TMZ, but you could tell in the genuineness of his words between songs that he was grateful and would never forget where he came from.
Another hip-hop artist who is no stranger to paying homage to their roots is Cleveland-based Machine Gun Kelly. MGK mixes rock and rap in his music, appearance, and live performance, all of which lend to making me a fan. Despite attending college for four years in northeast Ohio, it wasn’t until this past summer, a few weeks before seeing Wiz, that I was able to see MGK perform before his hometown at the Alternative Press Music Awards.
As expected, MGK was on hand to perform with Sleeping with Sirens for their collaborative effort on “Alone,” an APMAs “Song of the Year” nominee from the latter’s full-length Feel. A man who was simply referred to as “Cleveland’s own” by frontman Kellin Quinn, is apparently one who needed no introduction as just the mention of that sent the crowd in to a mix of applause and screams before the band began their performance.
While the reception was a positive one when he stormed the stage for his verse, it was nothing compared to the performance of his own song later that evening. This time, Atilla frontman Fronz upped the defiance by chugging a drink on stage and tearing up a pre-written script in their introduction, which eventually included the point of their appearance: having the crowd “make some noise for [Cleveland’s] unofficial mayor” and “lace the f*** up,” paying homage to a phrase popular among MGK fans in reference to his full-length, Lace Up.
Opting for a track from that album, “See My Tears” was the perfect choice to blend the Cleveland Youth Orchestra—who had been on hand for backing and transitional music—and his own touring band in what was perhaps the most energetic performance of the entire show.
He may have only performed one track that night, but there’s no denying MGK’s love of his hometown and vice versa as the rapper finished out his No Class Tour at a sold out Cleveland House of Blues in late December where fans had been literally camping out for the ability to get as close to the stage as possible.
In just two separate instances and countless unmentioned local shows, it’s easy to see all of that passion, dedication and energy make for quite an incredible evening, but the only way to understand that is to go out and have an experience of your own.