'As quickly as an identity of relatability was established by Dijon’s quirky social awkwardness and humble every-man demeanor, it was stripped by the first seconds of a performance that reinforced him as a demi-god of vocalism and futurist experimentation.'
Evan Dale // Nov 13, 2019
Approaching the Lowbrow Palace in the University neighborhood of El Paso, Texas, a line wrapped around the block. On a random Tuesday in November at what promised from research to be an exceptionally petite venue, there were conflicting thoughts about how much of a crowd would turn up. But apparently, the El Paso youth are more than in-touch with the culture. In many ways, they’re the face of it.
A steep, square, multi-tiered venue, the Lowbrow Palace seems in every way to be against fire code. But assuming there is no fire, such are often the best: the most intimate, most intense, and most memorable places to catch a show. From the back of the venue, a series of sharp staircases work their way to a mid-level, and then to a sublevel, placing the audience’s multiple steps equally close to the stage, but garden-leveled from it: one slightly above; the other slightly below, wrapping around the stage at a right angle.
In no time, the show became very clearly sold out. Finding myself on the staircase separating the lowest tier and the middle one, I was able to secure a spot eye-level with the stage and square in front. Perfect for my camera and me. But, in such a small venue, there could have been no bad positioning. No matter which of the tiers one found themselves a part of and no matter from which angle they were watching, the furthest depths of the Lowbrow Palace kept its hundreds of patrons no more than 25 feet from the action.
It was packed.
Thirty minutes before a 9 o’clock show, there was no chance of moving. So instead, I indulged in a pre-concert’s most tantalizing pastime: people-watching.
The crowd was young. Being so close to the UTEP campus, and being an all-ages venue, a line-up of post-genre transcendentalists paving the way for a future of music as inventive as it is unbound by any preconceived castes of stylistic delineation, was bound to be brimming with youngsters. And El Paso youngsters, as diverse as they are fashionable, make for one hell of a crowd. Energy buzzed through the room. Bi-lingual discussions on favorite music blended with conversation about tailored boots. This audience, like its proprietors were here for more than music, more than culture, but the experiential coalescence of them both as a symbol for the future of art and society.
‘Fuck my exam tomorrow. This is much more important.’
The student behind me was right. This wasn’t her everyday show.
After a warm and fluttery performance from the show’s first opener, Silver Sphere, the crowd was perfectly primed. And as starstruck as they were humbled, they quickly got a taste of their first hero.
Dijon – as low-key and understated as his music, his visuals, and his social media presence have always made him out to be – nonchalantly strolled on stage to help set up he and his band’s equipment. For 10 minutes, he made goofy looks around the Lowbrow Palace, connecting with the crowd members that new who he was instead of acting for them. It was a new experience to see an artist so important to the future of music so comfortable in his dualistic role as a roadie. Undoubtedly humbling in both directions, it did nothing but speak highly of his character while making him approachable and relatable to a young crowd in search for inspiration of self.
And as quickly as that identity of relatability was established by Dijon’s quirky social awkwardness and humble every-man demeanor, it was stripped by the first seconds of a performance that reinforced him as a demi-god of vocalism and futurist experimentation.
Constantly clutching a water bottle to soothe his recently ‘obliterated’vocal cords and a vocal synthesizer to obtain the furthest reaches of his acoustic-electro R&B lane, the Maryland-born artist kept his voice in focus while largely taking himself out of the picture. Crouching, sitting, and often facing the back wall made the show less about his presence, and more about the role of his band and the addition of his voice to it.
Stemming equally from the righteousness of music and for an apparent lack of love for being in the limelight, the oft-mysterious figure honestly and poetically performed his entire canon in a way – and in a place – as fitting of his music as possible. These are indeed the type of setting where true artistic movements dig their deepest roots. And Dijon – with performances like the one at the Lowbrow Palace in El Paso, Texas – will hold strong the direction of experimental R&B for years to come.