I’m going to warn you right now. This is probably going to be a long one. On Friday, May 5th, three of my closest friends and I started the long drive to Atlanta. We were completely unaware of the insanity that was going to transpire that night. We just thought, “oh we’re gonna go wait in line then see Donald Glover and then go right back to our hotel and that’s it.” We were completely wrong.
We arrived at the Variety Playhouse at 4pm after listening to nothing but John Mellencamp (and a little bit of Nickelback) on the way up. The doors weren’t opening until 7:30 but luckily we were in a great neighborhood for exploring and also, Pedro brought his banjo to provide entertainment. Little Five Points, the area that the Variety Playhouse is in, is an interesting little place in Atlanta with an abundance of eclectic (but expensive) stores. There are also a lot of homeless people who use their “talents” to get money (or shots of Jager). One guy in particular, who told us that he was “rolling balls” also said that he could do freestyle poetry. Pedro gave him a beat and we told him to rap about the IAMDONALD Tour and so he did. And you can check out that video here. It was probably the most fun that I have ever had in a lineup. A huge group of us started performing Kanye West songs which included a freestyle by the man who was “rolling balls” and another guy in the lineup. The time went by extremely quickly and we were at the front of the stage in no time.
If you are not familiar with this tour, Donald Glover is a man of many talents. He is both a comedian and a rapper (under the name Childish Gambino) and this tour included both these things. When he came on stage, he did about 20 minutes of stand up comedy, the highlight being a story about Reggie Bush stealing his glasses at Mardi Gras. Suddenly Donald Glover got two FaceTime calls on his iPhone and showed them on the projector screen. One was from former LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy and the other was from “Future Donald Glover” who told him to meet him at the café in the corner right away. This was his cue to leave the stage and while he was gone a short scene was played on the projector showing Future Donald trying to convince Donald to never play music ever again. Ultimately, he decided to continue with the music and then Donald plus a 4-piece live band came out on stage and blew the roof off.
The amazing thing about Childish Gambino is that his songs are as good, if not better than his comedy. And performing these live made them even better. Donald’s high energy mixed with the talent from all the musicians on the stage made these songs ten times more amazing than they already are. Highlights included Put It In My Video (ft. a video cameo by Reggie Watts) and Be Alone (see a video of that here). Often times, the supporting band is taken for granted by simply being considered the support of the show without any recognition to their talent. But it is impossible to do this when observing these guys rock out on stage. His live band included Ray Suen (guitar and keyboard) who has shared the stage with Wayne Coyne, Bono, and Chris Martin among others. His spirit animal usually is an Ox but he told me on that night he was an eagle on top of an alligator. Next was Chris Paulhartz on drums whose spirit animal is a dolphin, mainly because “they have sex for fun” (his words). Thomas Drayton was on bass and also banged on a trash can for additional percussion, and his spirit animal is a Lone Wolf. Lastly, was the talented Erik who played violin, xylophone, and drums and his spirit animal is a yellow Labrador.
After the phenomenal show, I found Donald Glover amongst a throng of fans and asked him what his spirit animal was. His first response was a cheetah, but then he quickly changed it to an elephant because “they’re wise and they mourn about stuff”. I didn’t get to talk to him too much as he was busy signing autographs and taking pictures with fans. Supposedly he stays around after every show, meeting every fan who wants to meet him. That’s pretty amazing.
The show ended pretty early, around 10, so we decided to hang around for a bit. We proceeded to start huge sing-alongs of Kanye West’s ‘Monster’ and Mumford and Son’s ‘The Cave’ with all the musicians from Childish Gambino’s live show and some of the other concertgoers. We ended up hanging out with the tour crew and the live band until 3am that night and it was absolutely amazing. I have never met a nicer group of people at a show in my life. I love it when band members are friendly and talkative, but these guys were just phenomenal. Donald Glover’s tour manager Chad Taylor (who also works with Passion Pit and Tokyo Police Club, among others) and I had a great talk about music and the industry. He really inspired me to try hard and pursue a career in the music industry. I’m not just saying that, speaking to him made me want his life more than anything. His spirit animal is a tiger.
The thing I loved about this is that these guys were real, they were down to earth, and they weren’t arrogant. They treated us as if we were friends, not just fans of the band. Thomas (the Lone Wolf) was talking about this and he said, “ultimately I’m just a person, I’m not different than anyone else”. After having a wonderful night, we topped it off with a trip to Majestic Diner with Andrew Froehlich who works on lights and visuals for this tour. He is from Boulder, Colorado and his spirit animal is a liger. He really wanted me to mention in this journal that he is a huge fan of Nickelback.
Though I barely got to talk to Donald Glover due to the fact that he was with his family (his hometown is Atlanta), talking to and befriending everyone else who runs the show was unique and different from anything I’ve done before at a concert. Usually when I go to shows I want to meet the main band, and that’s it, but this gave me a deeper respect for everything else. All the guys who work on this tour work their asses off and they are also extremely nice guys. I could probably write a whole article about each one of them and what they do.