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Negatively Charged, Unpredictable, and Moving with Heart-Spiking Furioso, Night Lovell is an Anion on Stage for his I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY Tour

Evan Dale // March 15, 2024

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There’s more combative energy and less colorful clothing by which even a metal show tends to be defined. The place is ready to explode, packed front to back. The completely sold-out Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom is chockablock with a more raucous audience than seemingly possible, even while the early stages of the largest snowstorm of the year begins blanketing Welton Street and polka dotting the black-garbed line still snaking around the block in a foot or more of the wet, heavy white stuff. The theater itself – an institution of the Denver music scene – is the torchbearer for a mosaic of subcultural crossroads, spanning bluegrass to bass, metal to hip-hop, and everything in between. And tonight, during an early Spring blizzard, the intersection of the latter pairing is not only represented, but sewn akin by one of the more unique and inventive auditory alchemists of the last decade.

Night Lovell is from Ottawa. And if you’re not sure what Ottawa’s music scene sounds like, but wanted to take a stab at guessing, his piercing lyricism and vitriolic delivery would likely not be what your imagination conjures. But that’s all part of the elusive figure’s enigma and mystery.

Before the tail end of last year, it had been more than two since Night Lovell released an album, but with his latest, I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY – a title that feels innately sarcastic – the emo rap kingpin spun murderous allegory and trunk-rattling bass into a mosaic of nostalgia that tied reminiscence on golden era hip-hop to a bombardment of emotionally unstable motifs drenched in early oughts alt. His aesthetic is rare, not because it builds a bridge between a plurality of scenes which aren’t necessarily at odds, however differentiated they may be from their sounds to the audiences; but rather because he does so with deft authenticity. It’s not easy to really pull in a collage of subculture and misfits without connecting in a way that is impossible to fake, but Night Lovell’s at-this-point well-documented, and trailblazing signature is largely to thank for the decade-long rise of a modern rap-punk-emo transcendence that pays proper homage to all its roots, and captures the angst-ridden scope of his many scenes’ connective tissue.

Jimmy Butler’s pre-season portrait get-up would be the AI-generated archetype for Night Lovell’s target audience. Had hip-hop emerged from Vivienne Westwood’s London rather than late a 70’s Bronx, its most celebrated trait would have been the amalgam of characters that populate his crowds. It's Doc Martin rap, at just the right time, when both the boots, and the subcultures they’re tied with are more prominently posturing and resurgent than they have been in recent memory. And it comes as Night Lovell has entered his to-this-point final form, mastering the juxtaposition between his immensely violent braggadocio and depressingly downtrodden musings in a way that never feels forced, always feels authentic, and pulls his music – from his beats and his lyricism to his flow and his vocals – in multiple directions at once. And he does it all without ever losing his grip on the audience, and without ever failing to propel forward the experimental risks required for music at large to continue evolving.

On stage, Night Lovell is an anion. For those of you that failed chemistry class: he’s an ion with an electron to spare. Negatively charged, unpredictable, and moving with heart-spiking furioso, he maneuvers through flashes of ellipsoidal spotlights and plumes of smoke equal parts stage haze and crowd-provided blunt ash, to sporadically appear in and out of focus; to deftly pulse through a decade-long catalogue. For an hour and more, hip-hop’s dark lord commands his legion of misfits, invoking mosh pits, spurring intensity, and counterculturally conjuring community in the halls of Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom.

And he’s still on his I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY tour for a while. So, check dates for your city, and get down with your dark side for a night.

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