Blue. It’s the first vision one gets when they walk into Houston’s White Oak Music Hall lower level on a Tuesday night in late January. The stage is bathed in it. The mood is set right away. (If you know, you.will.knovv.)
The air is spiced with vanilla and a mingling of scents from excited womxn and some of their male companions, hoping the sultry R&B the DJ promises will cross over into something romantic. And the scene is romantic, a pallor of moody lights and expectant energy that makes the room buzz with anticipation. (Imagine being hypnotized by The Weeknd on a Tuesday.)
Then we begin.
The lights go out, and an immediate scream ripples through the crowd. First up is an unassuming DJ, further moodening the darkened venue. Miso’s impish voice spills from the speakers, now at concert pitch. It’s enough to get phones out and mouths quiet as the first verse of “Alone” sighs like smoke among rapt attendees. Then she emerges. A diminutive elf with a lavender voice and a stoic presence drenched in all black. She revels in shouts of “Yes, queen!” Hollers and hoots. The First Lady of you.will.knovv commands the stage with nothing more than a mic and a sultry coo. Her lights shimmer and quake in red and smoke, fitting for a voice so full of ember as hers. The British-bred UK vocalist and producer does more to elevate the mood in the room than the blue lights and bar-influenced crowd.
As the lights ebb between reds and explosions of purple and white, in time with her performance of “Where Did I Go,” she has the crowd under a spell. The silence errs on eerie, until she sways with sultry abandon to the slow groove. Then an eruption lifts the atmosphere into something feverish.
This is a noticeably more extroverted Miso than, say, 2019’s Buzzerbeat Festival rendition. It’s certainly interesting to see her so intent on playing to a ravenous audience. Less reserved, but not so much that anyone unfamiliar with her would notice. It’s clear she’s made an effort to get to this place, and it’s certainly not unwelcome. She’s still trying it on for size, but she seems to be having fun figuring out how to engage the audience like her more outgoing peers in Hoody or Katie. “Have you ever seen a shy Gemini just like me?” she asks the audience in a voice laced in silk.
She ends with tracks “Let it Go” and “Heaven,” and the audience is wrapped in velvet. There’s a tangible buzz in the crowd as her set comes to a close, a collective tingling in the limbs as the audience stays in a liquor-induced reverie. And then…
This young man is pure energy from the moment he hits the stage, nearly running Miso over as he barrels onto it, making all the womxn in the audience crumble in peals of screams. His light show is more energetic, matching his instantaneous intensity.
Tabber’s frat boy uniform (cap, long-sleeved shirt and khakis) belies someone who truly fashions himself an idol on that stage. He’s the most ostentatious performer of the crew. Sandwiched between two empaths, the extrovert of you.will.knovv lavishes in the adulation like a sunflower absorbing the sun. He’s all pretty-boy swagger and stage presence. He soaks up the screeches and moans as you’d expect. Even when he goes up into the rafters during Baek Yaerin’s pre-recorded solo on track “Being,” the crowd eagerly awaits his return to the main stage as the song ends and leaves the room in silence. And he loves it! When he goes into “007”, the audience absolutely erupts, each concertgoer singing/screaming his lyrics back to him when he turns the mic in their direction. Yeah, this one loves the spotlight, and would no doubt stay on the stage longer if he were given permission to do so.
Tabber’s sassy with his crowd interactions. He asks the audience if they can jump. (They would jump to the moon if he asked them to.) Everyone gets low with him during the first verse of “Devil May Cry,” waiting for the detonation. When he does finally explode, the crowd is right there with him, willingly standing at the edge of the volcano and bathing in the eruption.
“It’s so hot in Texas,” he says, flirting with the front row as if his declaration of the Texas heat was meant for each young lady in front of him. By the time he hits “Like a Vampire,” the last song of his set, the crowd is truly nestled in the palm of his hand. When he asks for flashlights, the room is instantly alight with smartphone torches. Effervescent is the word for this stage. Tabber’s in love with the audience, and they unequivocally love him back.
It’s no surprise, then, that no one, not a single soul, expects what happens next.
The show’s headliner, Rad Museum, slinks onto the stage, grabbing attention instantly as if the set right before him didn’t even happen. There’s something decidedly more raw about Rad’s introduction. As with his music, he holds no prisoners. Whether you’re along for the ride or not, he’s going to go in. And go in he does, absolutely attacking the crowd with “WHPH.” No prettiness, no shyness. Rad Museum is all in from the word go. The audience gets 2.5 seconds of humming darkness before Rad utterly explodes onto the small White Oak Hall stage. He’s bathed in yellows and reds (fire), and it’s no accident. This planned combustion is electric and gives the audience only a pause to breathe, the time it takes to think your next thought before searing his image into your frontal lobe.
His moods swing just like his music: when he’s blue, it slurries in your lower bits and makes you anxious for something sweet to get next to (“MORE”). When he’s red, he overheats you with just the suggestion of his energy (“SOME GIRL”). It’s no mistake he’s the night’s headliner. Who could follow someone so un-insistent about his instance that you’re forced to pay attention to him? He doesn’t ask; he doesn’t demand. He just takes your attention whether you were in the mood to be charitable with it or not.
That’s the difference between Rad and, say, his labelmate before him. While Tabber thrives on the audience’s affections, Rad could care less. You’re either with him or you’re not. He’s gonna accost the stage regardless, so you best choose a side and pray he doesn’t pick you as his next target.
Even in soft moments Rad affects a griminess that settles on the skin and sinks into your bloodstream. Just like last year’s GIRL, he’s savory, then sweet. Giving as much spice as sugar with his performance, but still caring very little which one is your flavor. He has them all. Pick a mood and sit in it, because Rad’s gonna be there whether you are or not. So relentless is his natural swagger, he gets a proposal of marriage before the night’s over.
Those who were respectfully docile during Miso’s mostly subdued performance and less engaged with Tabber’s idol-adjacent ministrations were involuntarily moved by Rad’s easygoing charisma. Yeah, man knows what he’s doing. For someone with limited English, he sure as hell knows how to rile up an all English-speaking audience and keep them shivering on a knife’s edge for the entirety of his 25-minute set. Rad earned that headlining spot, and he doesn’t let it go.
Unsurprisingly, the audience is thirsty for one more song. Rad and Tabber give it to them gladly. The lights blush to a deep red before the stage has enough time to cool down, and the duo launches into something naughty to fit the mood (“ROCKSTAR”). By the time Miso rejoins the crew (with track “Fallin”), the crowd is collectively convulsing, and you.will.knovv’s First Lady only makes the emotional upheaval all the more palpable.
The night ends early, but not too soon. This was the perfect amount of moody blues, energetic crowd interactions and unabashed cool. A feast for an early-week audience to carry them to the weekend. This is the type of show audiences crave. While the most popular K-pop acts have the global notoriety to get the resources to greet their Western audiences, those on the lower key of the spectrum (like you.will.knovv’s small roster) have so much to offer musically, and their passion is elevated because they have to work on a different scale to get here. The more acts like this we get to experience, the more likely it is that acts that might not make it past Hongdae might get their shot to do just that. Thank you, you.will.knovv, for blessing this devoted Houston audience. This was certainly a night to remember.
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