Seattle can be a hard crowd—especially for an act that is neither pop nor some offshoot of rock. The sort of affirmations, coos, cheering, and general liveliness necessary for a really great hip-hop or rap or R&B show can be hard to find here, especially at a venue like the Showbox that draws a more general slice of the Seattle population. This is something that visibly frustrated both Noname and her opener, Elton., Sunday night—the second night of their weekend stay in the city.
After he finishing his opening song, he ducked offstage and came back with an already-lit blunt, puffing on it while taking back the mic. This is Seattle. Everyone loves weed. He got the easy claps. Offering free Elton. merch to the livest person in the audience, it was the artist's mission to get us to ten by the end of the set. I think we ended somewhere near an eight. I saw a girl that was totally passed out being carried by three security guards away from the bar. She did not have free Elton. merch.
Noname does dirty, filthy things to language—the ways she shoves all those words into a small amount of time and space should be studied by physicists. It's dizzying. When I tell you I felt her line, "Fucked the rapper homie now his ass is making better music/My pussy teaches ninth-grade English/My pussy wrote a thesis on colonialism" from her opener "Self," I really felt it!
But Noname's frustration with the audience interaction was palpable. She kept reminding us that we paid to be here, asking us who had "really" heard of Room 25, and at one point commenting, “I know it’s Seattle but goddamnit y’all." She almost begged us to dance and make noise; she felt weird with all of us just staring at her. There was an energy demand placed on us all that didn't feel equal with what her music put out. I don't fuck to Noname. I don't fight to Noname. I light incense and twist my hair and smoke weed and calm the fuck down and put her on when I'm in the car with my mom and she asks who is this and I tell her it's this cool rapper-slash-poet from Chicago named Noname and my mom nods approvingly and maybe asks me to tell her the name again so she can save it in Apple Music for later.
Our lack of rowdiness wasn't a lack of appreciation but just an appreciation of a different sort. I mean, the woo girl in front of me was almost on beat. People were grooving and sparking their own blunts to the music. Noname's almost constant insistence that we were listening to her music in the wrong way became a bit exasperating after awhile. I felt hyper-vigilant of my own enjoyment of the music and my expression of that enjoyment. Noname became like that person who cooks for you and is like, you hate this don’t you, and you’re like, no I actually really love this, but it's not convincing and then she’s like, you can tell me if you don't like it, and then there's nothing you can ever do to communicate to her that that you do in fact think her pie tastes better than anything that's ever passed through your lips before. It can be exhausting!
At a certain point during Noname's performance, I slipped into the bathroom. Mid-stream, there was a commotion a few stalls down from mine, and I heard someone lovingly, but firmly, making sure her friend was alright. I came out and saw puke on the floor and a body still inside the stall. The community of the women's bathroom came together quickly—someone offered to get water, another to get security to get the person help, someone else checking in to make sure the friends were fine. I settled in back near the side stage. I couldn't quite hear what Noname said clearly, but it was another slightly disparaging remark about the crowd's energy level.
Did anyone tell her about the girl in the bathroom?