Conan Gray is an international indie pop star who has begun one of his highly anticipated tours, as he continues to release more and more new music. Conan’s incredibly enthusiastic and avid fanbase wrapped around the blocks approaching the Maryland Fillmore concert venue. On November 16, 2019, a cold and windy night, fans descended upon the suburb of DC to see the “Comfort Crowd Tour.” A sea of laughing, singing and most commonly – shivering, fans stood in line as far as the eye could see. It was evident Conan’s fanbase had grown since his previous tour (which you can read more about here). The energy just outside the venue was electric.
Umi, Conan Gray’s opener, practically floated on stage. Lighting sage and reciting a spiritual chant, she looked out at the audience and asked if they felt ready to begin. She sang songs from her EP, a cover of Corinne Bailey Rae’s “Put Your Records On” and her hit “High School.” Her smile was as bright as the yellow flowers that adorned her microphone stand, and her braids swung as she danced, adding to the whimsy of her entire performance. Conan later laughed during his set, calling out to the crowd about her, “Like, what an angel. Like, leave some angel for the rest of us!” Umi was simply ethereal.
Before Conan Gray even came onstage it was clear that this show would be different than one that fans could have seen on his previous tours. The venue was massive in comparison to the past stages on which he performed. Packed to the gills, 2,0000 fans stood in balconies and crowded the floor to the point where security had to reinforce the barricade (for comparison: when he came to DC in March of 2019 the venue filled 500 people). There was a large frowny face flag (his logo for this era) that hung on the large two-level stage, and large light displays flashed.
The show began with “The King” (which you can read more about here) and the crowd went wild. As fans immediately joined him in singing every word, Conan ran up and down the stage, jumping and kicking off of platforms. Pulling a song from his EP “Sunset Season,” Conan began to sing “Generation Why.” This is a song about forging a new path as a part of a bold new generation. It was one of the first singles ever released off of his EP, and came with the first-ever music video he shot in Los Angeles California, as opposed to his small hometown of Georgetown, Texas.
The lyrical content of “Generation Why” pairs well with the next song Conan performed – “Comfort Crowd” (which you can read more about here). Conan looked out into the crowd asking them about their friends, and listing qualities he appreciates about those in his life. Thankful for tight friendship and full of longing, “Comfort Crowd” excited the crowd further. As Conan sang, a fan handed him a cowboy hat. At Conan’s March show, he had laughed, saying that one always made its way to him. Conan never stopped singing, but gingerly placed the song next to his setlist.
The “Other Side” (which you can read more about here) began, and it felt as though one was floating through a memory. Fans swayed with their phone flashlights in the air, enjoying one of the very first songs Conan ever released. The way Conan sang, it seemed as though he was telling the crowd he had made it to the other side, as the yearning of the song was replaced with an almost tangible nostalgia.
Further on the theme of his hometown, Conan sang “Greek God.” Written about the bullies and naysayers that filled his high school and childhood experience, “Greek God” was filled with sass and strutting. After the joy of “Greek God” ended, Conan stepped up to the edge of the stage and stared out into the sea of faces. He cracked a slightly sad grin and said, “I’m gonna get depressed with y’all for a bit.” Conan explained the motivation behind the next piece, sharing that there’s always been and always will be a certain person with whom he is at least a little bit in love. “Lookalike” began. The lighting turned blue, the chandeliers glowed and the crowd drew quieter. Conan threw in incredibly intense runs on the word “mind,” which expressed both his passion and growth as a vocalist. As the disco ball began to spin, it was as though the room had transformed into some sort of melancholy prom.
Conan then moved on to “Grow.” Another one of his earliest works, “Grow” is filled with a sense of readiness. “Grow” was about being prepared to depart from his old life in Texas and embark on a new journey. It’s about finally breaking away from the confines of the town and life he wanted nothing more than to escape. As he played for thousands of screaming fans, it certainly seems as though Conan was more than “ready to grow.”
Conan laughed, shouting to the crowd, “Who follows me on Twitter? Oh, I am so sorry for you.” He explained that he noticed fans wanted the next song added to the setlist. As his band disappeared, Conan gripped his guitar and said, “This is a song I wrote when I was 17 years old. this is ‘I Know A Place.’” There were gasps in the crowd, as older fans immediately identified “I Know A Place” as one of Conan’s first-ever songs released. It was posted as a video of Conan sitting in front of a field playing the guitar. The crowd grew quiet, possibly because a great deal of the newer fans did not recognize the song, and partially out of respect and awe of the song. Conan sang with greater power in his matured voice, adding new dips on the final verse. It felt as though fans were trying to savor a moment in time.
Then came a new song. For the sake of Conan’s privacy, I will not be disclosing any information about the piece besides the fact it is gut-wrenchingly personal and heartbreaking. Fans are sure to be obsessed with it. Conan shared, “It is a song off my upcoming debut album. Which feels…so fake to say. Like that shouldn’t be real.”
After Conan’s time alone on stage concluded, his band, fondly referred to as “The Cone Puffs,” returned to the stage. Conan took advantage of many personal moments with the audience. He had the band play game show theme songs as he sipped water and introduced each member (accidentally mixing up his best friend from home Ashley, and one of his best friends and bandmates Christine and looking positively guilty and sick about it).
Jumping back into the music, Conan smiled at the crowd and called out, “I’ve been played so many times. Over and over by the same person. A million times. And look, I will admit: some of that is my fault. Just a bit. I am Boo Boo The Fool…If you’re gonna treat love like some game, then I’m gonna WIN it!” The song “Checkmate” (which you can read more about here) began and the building practically shook. Fans all around the venue were jumping around and singing along. The crowd was as close to moshing as one could possibly get without causing harm to one and other.
The mood calmed and Conan settled himself on a stool, sitting with his folded in front of a mic. November 18, 2019 marked the one year anniversary of the release of his EP “Sunset Season” (which you can read more about here). The project gained massive popularity and Conan shared that his life has never been the same. He thanked the crowd profusely and explained, “When I was living in that small town I had one mission, and that was to: get out.” One year later, on leave from his dream school UCLA, performing for massive outlets and touring around the world, it appears Conan has successfully accomplished his mission. Conan smiled a bittersweet grin and explained that he wrote a song alone in his bedroom closet on a cheap makeshift microphone and GarageBand, before recording a music video with his friends in a retirement community. Finally placing the cowboy hat upon his head, Conan began to sing “Idle Town.” He even added new runs to the piece and threw in “right here” as he sang the lyric, “Everyone I love’s in this place.”
As “Idle Town” concluded, Conan jumped into the press pit in between the stage and the barricade, running up and down (with his security), and even hanging over part of the barricade for screaming fans to swarm him. The song ended and Conan started to head back on stage. Then he turned back around and started pointing into the sea of people. He was pointing into the crowd worriedly, as his security began to lift someone out of the mass of fans. Someone had passed out in the crowd when Conan popped over the rail. Walking back onstage, Conan took the mic and asked, “Y’all taking care of yourselves? Y’all staying hydrated?”
Conan returned to performing, and began a rendition of “Burnin’ Up” by the Jonas Brothers that rivaled the actual Jonas Brothers’ live performance. He transitioned the song into his hit “Maniac” (which you can read more about here) Similar to his combination of his song “The King” and Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8er Boi” on his last tour, the energies of the songs paired exceptionally well.
“How many of y’all are single?” Conan shouted into the audience. Conan explained that he has been single for 20 years of his life, and he wrote his final song of the night about his frustrations with couples. As Conan sang “Crush Culture,” his cynical and slightly bitter tone shone.
The “Comfort Crowd” tour is a different creature than his previous shows. Massive crowds. New music. A matured look and sound. This tour is less of an homage to Americana culture, and more of a farewell to the “Sunset Season” era. He releases less on YouTube, doesn’t post many covers and even himself to swear frequently now. There were fewer American flags and “yeehaws” and more grunge elements. Despite the many changes to his concerts, one thing is exceptionally clear following this show: as Conan Gray’s career continues to grow, the genuine concern and care he has for his fans and music will remain constant.