There is a new tide rising on the fringe of the underground music scene. The YouTube views may not be there quite yet and the twitter follower might not break six figures, but in the moment – when it’s just them and an audience – that intangible spark that makes music great ignites and unites the room. You might not fully get, but you don’t admit it because doing so must mean you’re too old for the scene you’re seeing unfold.
It’s a warm Sunday night in Grand Rapids and the city has that golden hour light pouring over its quickly growing downtown skyline. It’s been too hot for days, and every grown person’s face reads of knowing the dog days of summer have yet to arrive. The youth however, those toeing the line between teenage innocence and overly confident young adulthood, are gathered in a small club known as The Stache to witness the return of up and coming artist Bryce Vine.
Let me save you a Google. Vine is a twenty-nine year old rapper from New York with a Third Eye Blind obsession whose verified on Twitter and currently living in Los Angeles. He flew into the city earlier today and will probably leave tonight, but tonight he’s greeting an excited crowd of young music consumers with only one opener and a $20 door price ($15 in advance). Over 80 people were in line an hour before doors opened. The venue has a late curfew and Vine’s promising his entire catalog. Everyone screams, a few even high five, and in that second even the biggest outlier could feel the creeping sensation they were about to share one of those rare concert moments they would never forget.
It happened just like that. A “Bohemian Rhapsody” sample played by a clearly excited DJ boomed through the soundsystem as Vine took the stage. If you told someone he had just set his skateboard against the venue wall facing the back parking lot moments before stepping on stage it would not have been questioned. Vine was carefree and smiling, dressed as though he were living any other day, and he quickly dove into the first of many track he would play while fans screamed every word right back at him. The venue wasn’t filled, but it didn’t matter. Those who were there came because they connected to something in Vine’s music that, at least in that moment, was the only things that mattered in the world.
The longer you work in music the more you come to realize that a sold out show doesn’t necessarily mean an artist has the best fans. There is different between being popular in the classic sense of the world and having the kind of popularity that comes from forging a deep bond with people you’ve never met all over the world. It is impossible to speak to Vine’s other performances in other cities, but on this night – several thousand miles from either one of the coastal cities he calls home – Vine encountered a small, but rabid fanbase that hung on his every word. That energy fed him, and in return he delivered energetic performance after energetic performance of bass-heavy tracks that emphasized the need to live life on one’s own terms. Vine’s sound falls somewhere between the smoothness of Drake and the philosophy of Mod Sun, with just a pinch of Bay Area influence when it comes to production. He’s a walking one-man party, and those in attendance recognized this to be true.
Where Vine goes from here is an unknown, but if this crowd was any indication he’s going to be traveling much more in the weeks and months to come. There was a bit of magic in the Stache the night. The kind of magic that only happens when an artist is able to tap into something so pure and so true that everyone who is within earshot cannot help bobbing their head along with the beat of the music. It’s not about radio hits or fame, it’s about creating a moment where the rest of life melts away so that those in attendance are able to forget the worries of life for as long as the performance lasts. People need that kind of affordable escapism now more than ever, and on this night – A Sunday just like any other – Bryce Vine delivered sweet relief.
Photographer Ben Howell was also present for Bryce Vine’s Grand Rapids performance. Highlights from the show can be viewed below: