Enumclaw had the devious youthful energy one might expect from a band that takes their name from an early internet reference. The four-piece, majority-POC, indie rock group with grunge and pop punk influences, opened for Genesis Owusu at the Studio at the Factory on the first night of November 2023.
I could tell the band was having fun with their performance; the crowd didn’t quite fill the venue, but they were reciprocating the band’s energy well. Frontman Aramis Johnson’s emo-inspired vocals brought out the raw feeling in songs like “Fuck Love, I Just Bought a New Truck;” the band’s danceable rhythm and ultra-fuzzy tone echoed that passion.
We only had to wait a short time between sets. We used that time to consider the imposing black box on stage. It looked about eight feet tall and four feet by four feet at the base, and it was covered by a black cloth. Genesis Owusu appeared on stage and the black cloth disappeared. Underneath was a remarkably utilitarian piece of set design. Four square glass panels stacked on top of each other; the bottom three panels housed two rectangular bars of LEDs, the top panel a spotlight. Somehow the cyber-brutalism of this radiant black obelisk matched Owusu’s forward thinking, futuristic sound very well.
I had discovered in between sets that a sizable portion of Genesis Owusu’s fan base consisted of middle-aged women. What the rest of us only felt internally, or merely expressed in casual head bobbing and shoulder swaying—-the singular delight of watching good musical performance—-these middle-aged women amplified in their own enthusiastic performances.
Owusu embodied a certain persona for this tour—-inspired by the thematic directions of his latest album, STRUGGLER, released this August—-that of a prophet delivering some message of resilience to his followers. I admit my knowledge on the world building around the album is limited; I’ve listened to the project a couple times and enjoy its sonic qualities and literary references (Gregor Samsa, Godot), but from that little experience I understand how this persona makes sense for the style of performance this music requires.
Last but not least, the musical performance itself was intensely satisfying; Owusu’s command of the mood of the room was electric. He knew when to get personal with the audience. Sometimes he did this physically, as when he asked everyone to take a seat, which we did, on the floor, whereupon he walked into the middle of the crowd, a great big book that shone a light on his face in one hand and a microphone in the other. Naturally people got their flashlights out and the effect was one very different from anything I had experienced at a concert prior.
My only expectation for this show was that I would be met with something I did not expect, and in this respect my expectations were met. Genesis Owusu put on a mysterious and off-kilter performance befitting of his innovative command of musical storytelling.