[Interpretive Crayon Drawing by Mitchell Winkie]
There is a ritualistic quality in driving to Los Angeles as a San Diego kid. If you were young, mobile, and into going to shows, that means that a punchy night-trip up the coastline was the sort of things you looked forward to. Everything about these car-rides is irreplaceable. Past Camp Pendleton, through the power plant that kinda looked like tits, and into the shallow reaches of the sprawling, incomprehensible cityscape. This is where you played. It never felt like home, because that would rob its delightful other-ness. On the way back you went to the Denny’s in San Clemente, its sign peaking over the I-5. I don’t know anything about San Clemente, but that Denny’s is really good.
So there was something nostalgic to being back in San Diego with my brother in a red Toyota Corolla, soaking up the highway en route to some flashy new thing we were both excited about. Odd Future shows are like clarion calls to paved over teenaged inhibitions, even if I felt like the oldest person in the Observatory. The Third Annual OFWGKTA Christmas Show for my Third Annual Christmas Break Back Home. These sorts of things are cosmic and intended, to the point where shilling $10 for parking felt immediate and comfortable.
You probably already know what an Odd Future Christmas Show looks like. Kitch on unlimited—dozens of blobby, inflatable front-yard snowmen, Santas, and snoopys, a few oversized socks dangling from the ceiling, an electronic menorah that was probably purchased earlier that day. The collective was well-accounted for, all dressed in varying degrees of merriment. The rail-thin Left Brain was the skinniest Santa Claus I’ve ever seen in my entire life, which made his stage dive extra effective. But honestly, the holly-jolly vibes were limited to surface-level aesthetics; this was mostly just an Odd Future show with some tinsel on top. Jasper took off his shirt, kids jumped around, Tyler was funny. They are who they are.
I couldn’t keep my eyes off Earl Sweatshirt, perhaps because it was the first time I’ve laid eyes on the curious 18-year old outside of delirious YouTube clips. He’s got a delightfully shy presence, still a little wary of the spotlight, but his relationships are true. Odd Future has always felt like a de facto brotherhood, binding these developing personalities together, and if you’re going to make a re-entry after the shit Earl went through, it’s good to have some familiar support. Earl dragged his feet, uncomfortably taking up all the space in the front of the stage, his first public performance of “Chum.” It’s sad, quiet, ruminative, and thoughtful. Suddenly he’s acutely aware he’s talking about Thebe instead of Sweatshirt anymore. “Alright fuck that, I’M A HOT AND BOTHERED ASTRONAUT…”
Whenever I see Wu-Tang Clan, I always think it’s kinda cool they play, like, “No Said Date” and let Masta Killa be a hero for a few minutes. So it’s cool that Mike G is allowed to perform. He’s by no means a bad MC, but when a set so intrinsically reliant on fuck-shit-up rampancy gets weighed down by five or six slithery, syrup-drenched mixtape tracks? I’ve never seen a clearer telegraphing for phone-check indifference. I feel bad for the guy, I really do, he’s the odd man out in tone and character. At least the criminally-underutilized Domo Genesis raps like he’s throwing a trash can through a window. It’s hard to say how the OF kids can fix the Mike G problem, because ousting a friend and artist from the live-set seems like a severely fucked-up thing to do, but hopefully it’s something that sorts itself out in the future.
The end of the set was gift-giving time, in which Odd Future and any affiliated brethren rocketed “gifts” into the audience. My brother was hit in the eye with an iPod Car Charger at an incredible speed. Some bands throw out t-shirts, some bands throw out consumer electronics, it’s just how it is. A scrawny white kid rock-paper-scissor’d his way into an “official” Odd Future bike, call it a grand prize. Oh, and if an 19 year-old rapper keeps promising he’s about to throw out R. Kelly tickets, that means he’s not actually going to throw out R. Kelly tickets.
Then they played “Sandwitches.” Jumping, yelling, pressing their faces into our faces. And at that moment I realized that unequivocally, without even the slightest asterisk, I really, really like Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. I’m not saying all their records are brilliant, or they’ve only been responsible for positive things in the world, but usually when I was driving to L.A. as a reformed San Diego teenager, I was usually looking for some sense of unpredictability. I wanted to be in a room, with a band, where literally anything could happen. That’s the sort of feeling Odd Future gives me, the feeling that I might have to use the emergency exit.
Luke Winkie is older than Odd Future's target audience and is on Twitter - @luke_winkie
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