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Bare Feet, Scooters, and Underwear: What to Expect at a Hobo Johnson Show

Bare Feet, Scooters, and Underwear: What to Expect at a Hobo Johnson Show

Viral sensation, Hobo Johnson, returned to The Fillmore Charlotte just over six months after playing the Underground. For many bands, it would take years of hardwork, touring, and promotion to move from a venue the size of the Underground (capacity: 750) to the Fillmore (capacity: 2,000), but Hobo and his lovemakers managed to do so in less than a year. The band, fronted by 23 year old Frank Lopes Jr, has quite frankly dominated the internet with their unique spoken word slam-poetry-like hip hop. What started as an audition in a cluttered hipster Sacramento backyard to play a video series quickly changed the band’s life overnight. If you’re a fan of music you’ve likely watched or heard of NPR’s Tiny Desk concerts. Giving one lucky band the chance to play the infamous concert series, Hobo Johnson and the Lovemakers auditioned on a whim to play the NPR office. And, their happy ending came true. The band didn’t win the contest, but they did get invited by Bob Boilen to play their own show. To this day, the band has accumulated over 11 million views on their audition with their song “Peach Scone” and because of this one video, have toured the country as successful musicians.

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The night began with Jeffrey Lewis & Los Bolts, an anti-folk artist, illustrator, and writer. The singer songwriter performed in complete darkness with the exception of a small homemade screen for a projector. Throughout the set, Lewis used the screen to project images of comics he had drawn that went along with his songs. Singing songs like “Roll Bus Roll” and “Cult Boyfriend”, drawing the audience’s attention to his lyrics and illustrations rather than his appearance, Lewis’ witty lyrics and raspy voice kicked off the night filled of experimental music.

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After Jeffrey Lewis & Los Bolts was Oliver Tree. Most of the things that occured during Tree’s set, you had to see to believe. As Tree bursted out from backstage, racing around on a scooter wearing extremely oversized flare pants and a ski jacket, the audience was immediately captivated and sparking conversation. Tree was also sporting a bowl cut, red sunglasses, and a dixie cup t-shirt. His appearance and stage presence alone was entertaining enough, as he cartwheeled across the stage and hopped around like a kangaroo, it was hard to forget his iconic performance. The Santa Cruz hip hop artist has previously performed alongside Skrillex, Zeds Dead, and Louis the Child. Given that he has been touring since the age of 17, the now 26 year old has played Coachella, Lollapalooza, and Outsidelands and has been on a fast track to success since the moment he started DJing in high school. His undeniably catchy songs like “Alien Boy” and “When I’m Down” had everyone hyped up for Hobo.

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When it was Hobo Johnson’s turn to hit the stage, a clip of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” played as a walk on song as each member of the band took their designated spot onstage. Fashion was a major statement of the night. The band’s wardrobe consisted of ponchos, underwear, overalls, and eskimo hats while Hobo Johnson sported bare feet, a sweatshirt, and khakis. Beginning their set with “DeMarcus Cousins & Ashley” in which Hobo begins by saying “Aye yo, deadass my moms pretty sure I’m going to be a somewhat successful rapper” it perfectly set the tone for the night.

Hobo took a daring move putting his most popular song “Romeo & Juliet” as second on his setlist. However no one should attend a Hobo Johnson show without realizing that he’s a risk taker. With over 8 million streams on Spotify the extremely heart-wrenching song tells the story of his parents’ divorce. It was strange to watch people dance to such an upbeat and catchy but dismal song. Correlating his relationships with his parents divorce and being scared of making the same mistake as his parents, Hobo uses “Romeo & Juliet” to confess his fear and struggle with early memories from his childhood.

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The amount of emotion that frontman Hobo exerts in his performance is explosive. The way the band writes with a poetic approach rather than musical allows them to perfectly blend music and spoken word. Hobo uses music to cope with the anger and betrayal from his father who kicked him out at the age of 19 due to a now ex-wife. Leaving him to live in his car, Hobo created something out of nothing.

After “Romeo & Juliet” Hobo Johnson and the Lovemakers played “Sex in the City”, a fan favorite. The song began with a recording of a conversation on the phone with someone asking Hobo to pay a balance of $691 in which he responded he couldn’t and would have to pay it off over three months time. In “Sex in the City”, the band urged people to love one another for their personality and intellect rather than plain looks.

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One of the best unexpected songs played was a cover of Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone”. With the first strum of guitar everyone in the room realized what was about to go down. Their performance of the 2000’s hit tied with “Mr. Brightside” as one of the most energetic and entertaining covers I have witnessed. Even if you’re not a Hobo fan, I’d recommend attending one of their shows just so you can hear their version of Clarkson’s song.

“3%” was one of my favorites of the night. Hobo Johnson exclaimed that he wrote the song after a friend’s birthday dinner in which he was told he’d have a 3% chance making it in music. He pointed out that only Will Smith truly understands how to make your dreams come true. “Drop school, and people, and work to play music all night. You’ll make a dollar an hour, at least you’ll like your life.” As this song was placed towards the end of his set, it was a proud “look at me now” moment. Going from sleeping in a 1994 Corolla to a tour bus, his music has more than paid off.

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When it was time for “Peach Scone”, the song that can be credited for the band’s fame, everyone in the Fillmore sang along. Johnson encouraged the audience pointing his microphone into the crowd as they sang “And I love the thought of being with you, or maybe it’s the thought of not being so alone!”. As they played the song live, it felt as if the Fillmore was the band’s backyard and we were in the iconic viral audition video in which “Peach Scone” hit it big.

Ending the night with “You Love to Dance”, an unreleased song, Hobo introduced it by saying “I wrote this song because I really wanted to play guitar”. Given that this is a newer song, I enjoyed hearing how Hobo Johnson & the Lovemakers have already evolved their sound. They’re a down to earth band that understands what it’s like to be at rock bottom. Fame won’t change them and they’ll always be there for their fans. With unique music that draws influence from all genres, they have the ability to create music that is experimental and has a little something for everyone.

See full gallery of the concert!

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Catch this tour:

Atlanta, GA
Wed 7:30 PM CST3,866 guests
Nashville, TN
Thu 7:15 PM UTC+113,196 guests
Marrickville, NSW, Australia
Sat 8:30 PM UTC+116,496 guests
Richmond, VIC, Australia
Thu 8 PM UTC+01149 guests
Cologne, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
Fri 8 PM UTC+0154 guests
Hamburg, Germany
Sat 8 PM UTC+01310 guests
Copenhagen, Capital Region of Denmark, Denmark
Mon 7 PM UTC+01301 guests
Berlin, Germany
Tue 7 PM UTC+01273 guests
Vienna, Austria
Sat 7:30 PM UTC+01211 guests
Paris, Ile-de-France, France
Tue 7 PM UTC3,532 guests
Bristol, England, United Kingdom
Wed 7 PM UTC885 guests
London, England, United Kingdom
Sat 7 PM UTC1,798 guests
Manchester, England, United Kingdom
Mon 7 PM UTC2,604 guests
Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland

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