With a bit of negotiating, I got us in line an hour before doors because it is physically impossible for me to show up to a GA show at doors. It was a chilly wait in a line that snaked around the side of the El Rey, and we unfortunately made it just outside the last drops of sunlight coming across the buildings on Wilshire. As the line pressed in the closer we got to doors, we finally got around the front of the El Rey's block where we found Maisie's team gearing up to get tons of videos for social media. I've never seen such a large digital team on a tour. Usually, there's one person with seven cameras strapped on to them and a phone in their hand to document the event for the artist, but Maisie had five people running around with camcorders and phones, interviewing people in line and riling up the crowd to cheer for the camera over and over... and over again. It was definitely a sight to behold and a forewarning of what was to come later in the night.
Once we got inside, I directed my mom right to my favorite secret spot in the El Rey that is severely underrated and that I hope no one ever looks past the barricade to think about. While I'm not going to go into specifics, I do have to say that the wait for the opener at this show offered the best people watching of my life. I was not bored through a single second of waiting observing some of the interesting dynamics between other fans. The shows I attend typically to have 2 main demographics, 18-26 or 16-21. There was a family with two 8 year olds with signs and a few elderly couples sprinkled through the audience as well and plenty of people who looked solidly in middle age. It was truly fascinating since I didn't expect her crowd to be so different from other shows I've seen recently like Gracie Abrams or Alexander 23.
When the lights went down for the first time, we had no clue what to expect from Jonah Kagen. I had neglected to do my homework entirely. I hadn't even seen his Instagram. While it's nice to be familiar with the opener's music, sometimes it works out like it did that night where it's even more special to discover a love for an artist live and in the moment. Jonah plays soft indie-folk-pop music that's very guitar led. He came out with a second guitar player and a keyboard player for his set. But what shone most about Jonah was his personality, stories, and interaction with the crowd.
I've never witnessed an opener get an entire crowd wrapped around their finger so fast. Fans put their lights up faster for him than even for Maisie later that night. He paused and got emotional since that was the first time lights had ever gone up for him since this was his first tour ever. Jonah also told a hilarious story because of a poster one of the girls had barricade had made for him that read, "I love you, son," in glittery gold letters. He explained that in Dallas, his hometown, he shared that his parents were in the audience that night. The audience thought it was sweet, and he launched into playing the next song. Then, out of nowhere, a guy yells, "I love you, son," as the song starts. Which would've been very heartwarming if the voice had actually been his dad's.
Jonah also had a funny monster stuffed animal to promote his merch, and he had the crowd deeply, deeply confused when he started pulling up the hem of his shirt at the end of his set only to reveal a Maisie Peters shirt that was a few sizes too small to celebrate the final night of tour. They had an emotional last moment on the stage before they headed off. I have to give a shoutout to Jonah's guitarist who was so into the set that he vividly lip synched along to Jonah even when he was far from his own mic. He also came back out after the set to give the set list to the girl who made the poster. Jonah's endearing self depreciation and immediate ability to connect with the crowd and make each and every one of them feel seen won me over quickly. Also, his music is truly great. Jonah Kagen is one to watch.
The lights went out again, and you could feel everyone holding their breath for Maisie to take the stage. Instead, "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" (hopefully Taylor's Version) started blasting over the speaker. You would've thought that the star of the show had hit the stage by the way everyone was dancing and singing and jumping around to the track. If nothing else, Maisie Peters fans are Swifites through and through.
Then Maisie bounded onto the stage with echoes of "You Signed Up for This" bouncing through the crowd. It's only fitting to start with the track both the tour and album is named for. She then moved into another of her upbeat singles, "Psycho." This album marked a pretty significant sonic shift for Maisie, and her stage presence reflected that. Wearing a corset top with a poodle on it, hot pink leather pants, and her newly bleach blonde hair, Maisie's look lived up to the edgier, poppier sound she's started steering towards. She also incorporated a fair amount of choreography into her set, and it felt like each motion and moment had been planned down to the second.
"Outdoor Pool," my personal favorite off the album, was the first high point of her set for me. With significantly less backing track and meticulous planning, Maisie finally slowed down to pull out her acoustic guitar. This felt like the first time she finally took a breath to connect with the audience. Still, in keeping with her migration to a harder edge, even most of these acoustic songs ended with the full band backing and a serious amount of Taylor Swift-like hair flipping as everything that night was heightened and exaggerated.
At one point, a girl called out a few times that she wanted to give Maisie a gift before she paused to acknowledge her. The girl tossed forward a bracelet, which Maisie put on and remarked she hoped the girl wasn't like the "fake bitches" she traded friendship bracelets with in primary school.
Unfortunately, the venue staff and Maisie's team created a lot of moments that detracted from the experience from frequently blocking fan's views to get videos and photos late in the set and talking over Maisie's quieter acoustic moments as the staff chatted away with members of her team about subjects totally unrelated to the show. While Maisie had clearly put tons of effort into her set, it was unfortunate to have these distractions throughout.
At the end of the night, I walked out of the show having enjoyed it but also totally surprised. Maisie has evolved into a budding pop star with thoroughly choreographed moves and a plan for every second. The show mimicked the changes in her sound on the new album, which I honestly still have lukewarm feelings about. I missed the softer, quieter, more off the cuff and genuine moments, and I found myself wishing that there had been a few more of the older songs incorporated into the set. This is by no means really a critique of the performance, it's more just a personal note on a disconnect that I really started to feel watching the set and noticing the manufactured feeling of the night.
It was really wonderful to get to take my mom to another show and to bring her to the El Rey specifically. It's become one of my favorite venues and a spot I feel at home at in LA, and I loved getting to show her what I've learned about the venue since going to shows is a big part of my life in LA. We both loved getting introduced to Jonah's music, and since we'd both been fans of Maisie together for so long, I was glad I had a chance to share the experience with her. Getting to spend the time with her was truly the highlight of my night.
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