Conan Gray charmed concertgoers with moody yet wholesome music
Indie-pop musician previewed unreleased songs from his upcoming debut album
Hundreds of young Conan Gray fans surrounded the Fillmore in Silver Spring on Nov. 16 in the biting cold, buzzing anxiously about their finals before the sudden rush into the beautiful, ornately decorated venue. There, indie pop musician Conan Gray and opening act R&B singer UMI refreshed high-strung DMV teens with the breath of fresh air they didn’t know they needed.
UMI, who Gray described as “an angel on earth,” began by inviting audience members to meditate with her. Exuding a contagious confidence, she effortlessly performed dream-like bops like “Breathe,” “Down to Earth,” “High School” and “Sukidakara,” which she sung primarily in Japanese. Between heartwarming renditions of original pieces and a delightful cover of Corinne Bailey Rae’s “Put Your Records On,” she ensured that every audience member was feeling their best, asking, “Is everyone staying hydrated?” UMI welcomed audience members into her life, sharing stories and her preference for Throat Coat tea with peppermint.
Immediately, the dark room burst with blaring purple lights and resounding drum beats as Gray ran on stage to perform his hit, “The King,” a high school story of unrequited love that the singer released in May. Running and jumping around on stage, posing and making over-the-top facial expressions, Gray set the tone for fans to be as goofy and dramatic as they pleased. The crowd chanted along to every lyric, uniting in synchronized clapping at the final chorus.
After a seamless transition into “Generation Why,” Gray’s soothing vocals enchanted the crowd, who at Gray’s command, crouched on the floor and then jumped up into a spontaneous dance party. Gray then brought out his guitar for “Comfort Crowd,” a sweet, heartfelt tune revering the comfort of a best friend.
“You could spend seven hours with them, and every thirty minutes, you send them a meme and they text back ‘lmao,’ but they’re not laughing at all,” Gray said to the crowd.
Gray’s performance of “The Other Side” was similarly vulnerable and honest, making for an ethereal experience as his harmonies echoed on. Gray gracefully balanced the stark contrasts between his self-assured and unperturbed jam “Greek God,” during which he stuck his middle fingers up, and his introspective melody “Lookalike” about heartache, which Gray explained “lets [him] be depressed for a few minutes.” “Grow” and “I Know A Place” similarly enveloped the crowd in euphonic sound that was the perfect combination of simple and soulful.
The most raw and authentic moment was Gray’s preview of “The Story” from his unreleased debut EP, a collection of stories from his rough childhood that shaped him as a person. Gray, who calls himself “the damaged friend,” choked up while strumming his guitar in front of a single fuchsia light, allowing his tears to speak for him in the atmosphere of support.
Notably, this concert marked the anniversary of Gray’s single, “Idle Town,” about his hometown, which went viral a year ago and changed his life. Gray brought the venue into his bedroom in Georgetown, Texas, where he recorded the piece on GarageBand with just a microphone duct taped to a lamp. Gray reminisced wistfully, engulfing audience members into a nostalgic bliss.
Time-traveling to 2008, Gray surprised fans with a spontaneous cover of “Burnin’ Up” by the Jonas Brothers, and he experimented with riffs and showcased his resonant and powerful tone. The dancing grew more energized when Gray transitioned to his most recent single, “Maniac,” which has already debuted at 30 on the New Zealand Hot Singles chart since its release this October. Its more electronic sounds got every audience member jumping and waving their arms around.
Gray ended the night with the pessimistic yet celebratory “Crush Culture,” which Gray joked is about “being very single and wanting to vomit all over people in love.” Gray boldly paraded around onstage, spinning and even pretending to vomit throughout the song, as the entire crowd erupted in rejoice of one of Gray’s most successful hits. With a big bow, smile and wave, Gray left audience members wishing the performance didn’t have to end, but feeling utterly satisfied at how it did end so enthusiastically.