Recap and Video: Mayer Hawthorne, Buff 1, and Bad Rabbits at Great Scott
I saw the immediate future of pop and hip-hop at Great Scott last night, and they go by the names Mayer Hawthorne, Buff 1, and Bad Rabbits. That’s the cheapest, lamest way to begin a concert review, but it’s true, and I’m still too exhausted from grinning through their sets to concoct a more profound intro.
VIDEO: Mayer Hawthorne live at Great Scott
VIDEO: Bad Rabbits live at Great Scott
Boston’s funk-inclined reincarnation of Eclectic Collective, Bad Rabbits proved to be a rare dance rock outfit with legit talent. The band is simultaneously tough and tender, with songs to scream along to at first listen. Before encoring with “She’s Bad” - which I predict will be a mega indie smacker - the Rabbits bent a “Thriller” jam capable of touching folks of all ages.
Warning the crowd that he lacked the soul styling of his longtime homeboy Hawthorne, Buff impressed regardless. I would have guessed that Twista doing Bone Thugs songs in Qwel’s voice while spinning on his head and snorting meth wouldn’t have impressed this crowd, but given his chance to kick Buff got the pit of Daniel Sons heeding dance instructions like Miyagi.
VIDEO: Buff 1 live at Great Scott
Though he was the headliner, Hawthorne had tall orders to fulfill. No doubt he brought adequate material - his debut album, A Strange Arrangement, is a cornucopia of potential Billboard toppers - but dude needed more than aural Skittles and a retro-dipped backup band to shine, and he was well aware of that.
From his build-up to various climaxes, Hawthorne smoked an impressively eclectic set for a guy who just began singing and composing R&B less than one year ago. There were several departures from his recorded fare; tremendous covers of “Work to Do” and “Mr. Blue Sky,” plus a reggae rendition of his viral smash “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out” fueled interesting momentum. It says a lot when new artists have deep enough arsenals to drop their flagship hits up front, but Hawthorne has adequate sweets to kill a diabetic.
I won’t lie - at times I felt a bit corny soaking in the ecstasy, but that’s because I’m accustomed to concealing my emotions at rap shows. As for everybody else, it was clear that most were there for the music rather than the hype, and that speaks novels these days. No doubt cats will return for Hawthorne’s next Beantown tour stop, which will likely be somewhere nine times the size of Great Scott.
Considering how exciting of a live set he orchestrated using cuts recorded in his bedroom (and how his untrained voice rang smoother than expected), suburban Detroit’s unlikely soul man will only mature over time. So long as Hawthorne keeps his writing up - and people don’t get tired of hearing his tracks in every other teen flick, commercial, and reality show (where they are sure to soon be found) - then the hipster fans who pledged allegiance last evening will surely be joined by the massive mainstream following that he deserves.