Oh, The Fine Line Music Cafe. I’m not sure how I feel about this venue. On one hand, I’ve seen some amazing shows there, and have never really been disappointed with the artists. On the other hand, it’s a total battle to just move from one place to another. I’ve lost track of the times I said “Ope!” just on Friday night, and my number is probably in the mid 100s when it comes to my complete career total. It actually got downright difficult to try to cover this event, but more on that later. Let’s talk about who I came to see: Rhye.
Rhye is one of the more unique artists of the last decade. His music made its first splash back in 2013 with the release of his first LP Woman. It got a ton of play over the radio (wow, when was the last time I said that?) and enjoyed considerable buzz from The Current, with plenty of airtime given to lead singles,“The Fall” and “Open.”
Other than that, people didn’t know what Rhye looked like or who he was. He rode the wave of obscure, mysterious artists that were so prevalent in 2012/2013. One of the most notable of these enigmatic performers is The Weeknd, who started releasing music with cryptic photos attached to them via youtube. Rhye wasn’t much different in that regard; most of his promo material was, and still is, dark, grainy black and white photos of a faceless woman.
However, Rhye, whose real name is Mike Milosh, plays R&B very differently than The Weeknd. Rhye’s style is minimal, with just strings, piano and simple beats comprising many tracks. I was wondering how this was going to translate into a live act. I pictured a lot of this music being suitable for a venue with an occupancy of 50 at the max, considering how much the tracks rely on minimalism to impact listeners. What transpired at Fine Line was a different experience. Milosh brought a whole band to compliment his set, and while it was great to hear a lot of tracks this way, it just wasn’t the same vibe as what I was expecting after hearing his album. However, it did work with the crowd that was at this show.
Renditions of “Song For You” and “Taste” were a lot less minimalistic than their album counterparts. Some songs were like a full-on rock show, with guitar solos taking center stage during sections. The opener, Boulevards, even leapt on stage for a section of the show to break it down. It was definitely a welcome break that added quite a lot in a show that stuck nearly entirely to the music. The set was built around Rhye’s “Open,” his most well-known track, as the centerpiece. During the last few songs, the lights on stage were turned completely out, really emphasizing that Rhye was all about the music first. A gamble, which would have paid off it wasn’t for the crowd.
Now, let me be clear, the music Rhye played was great. Not the minimalistic and atmospheric tracks I was quite expecting, but like I said, I feel that approach would have required a very specific kind of venue and crowd. However, this crowd was anything but great. They were an active detractor to the music throughout the entire performance. Many of the sections of Rhye’s music that relied on their minimal nature were completely lost to people just talking through the entirety of their set. At the end of the set, I was in the back trying to get some crowd shots, and I could not even hear the music. I know this a quieter artist than most, but That. Is. Horrible.
If you’re not at a show to enjoy the music, then why come at all? I’ve shot shows at venues all across the cities, but I have never encountered a crowd a rude as this one. I’ve never had people yelling at me during the middle of a show to move out of the way while I was shooting, and here it happened twice, and I had 3 more make snide comments about how they should have my spot by the stage. I’ve never had that happen at any show at any venue, including this one. Big shout out to the people in the audience that actually WERE great, there were plenty of you! And thanks for backing me up when that guy wouldn’t stop shouting at me. A few bad apples can really throw a wrench in your concert experience! I’m not sure if it was because it was an extremely packed house, but woof were there some ornery people there.
All in all, Rhye played a show that was focused on the music, and he did well to stick to that formula. However, that kind of approach also requires an audience that is almost entirely invested in the performance. Even if 5% of the people are not, it leads to a severely hampered show for the 95% that are. This is not Rhye’s fault, so here’s a message to people who buy tickets to shows they aren’t invested in: STOP. Go get annihilated at all the bars that are literally 1 block down the street. If you just want to make a ruckus, it will be encouraged there. Let the artists put on the show they want for their audience!