"I need them to hear us across the fuckin' street. I wanna see bodies flyin', people smiling. Damn, that was a bar," Kennyhoopla (real name Kenneth La'ron) mused to himself at the tail end of his frenetic and humid performance at Chicago's Metro last Friday night. "I wanna feel something, Chicago. Can you give me some love tonight?"
"Kennyhoopla songs" and "feeling something" are pretty synonymous, especially amongst his fans, who didn't so much sing along with every song of the night as scream them at the top of their lungs, voices for the rest of the weekend be damned. And if an audience completely surrendering themselves to a song is a theme amongst a fanbase, then it's no surprise that La'ron is their conduit. "Feeling something" is literally his job as a performer, but even if it wasn't you can tell from his performance that he'd still somehow be putting his heart on his sleeve so aggressively there's no way it would still be attached to his body. Everything he does is an extreme. And it' that kind of energy he brought to the Metro on his Raised By Wolves tour with support from Groupthink and Footballhead.
Hailing from Chicago, Footballhead started as the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Ryan Nolen. Mixing up a sound that's an ode to 90's alt rock/emo/pop punk, the addition of The Academy Is... bassist and local emo legend Adam Siska is like when Ralph Wiggum got to pick Ken Griffey Jr for his sandlot baseball team. The five piece band delivers on its promise and then some, cramming as much 90's alt pop rock energy as is humanly possible into just a half hour set. Gaining momentum as they played, their performance was a fitting tribute to Chicago music scene fixture Ryan Deffet, who tragically died last month (Deffet and Nolen were in Faux Furs together).
It's been a few days and I still don't know how to describe what I saw during Groupthink's set. I couldn't find a real name or much background information about the individual that took the stage in front of me, so I'll choose to believe that Groupthink is a being made of pure unfiltered snarky party energy sent here from the not-too-distant future (while somehow having the attitude of a late 90's Britpop frontman) to drop banger after banger on an audience's head while somehow out-singing and out-dancing everyone in the room. Armed with a mad scientist-esque stack of keyboards and knobs, he seemed to somehow be behind the controls of his synth tower while also on both sides of the stage dancing along with his own sonic creation and yet somehow also standing on the rail, looking like there wasn't much keeping him from jumping into the crowd and shaking his ass with the rest of us.
Like I said, it's hard to describe what I saw onstage for 13 frenetic songs (one of which was a cover of Britney Spears' 'Gimme More') other than knowing it was loud and catchy and energetic and awesome. I couldn't tell if Groupthink was trying to entertain me, pick a fight with me, or some weird dancing combination of both. I assume a lot of my difficulty in comprehension comes from getting closer and closer to being too old to know what 'it' is. But man, Groupthink has 'it'. It's like he took every musical intrusive thought that popped up over a night of heavy drinking and found a way to mash them all together in a manner that would play over well in any club - rock, dance, or other. Don't be surprised to see this name sliding up festival posters over the next few years.
When I said that Kennyhoopla does everything to the extreme, I wasn't kidding around. From his performance to his lyrics, apparently nothing is worth doing if you aren't going to do it 12/10 balls to the wall. Part of the reason his voice is more raw and rough around the edges live than it is on his studio recordings is because he performs each song with the volume and intensity of someone that doesn't have a microphone and has to fight with a crowd of over 1,000 to be heard. It's not enough for him to whirl around the stage while he performs, he has to whip back and forth with reckless enough abandon to put even his bandmates on alert to avoid collisions. It's not enough just to crowdsurf, he has to launch himself into the audience while corkscrewing his body through the air and cover the ENTIRE audience front to back and side to side. Other frontmen may backflip off of drum risers - Kenny backflips off the bass drum onto a stage shallow enough to make you gasp for the half-second before he safely lands.
But it's not just his physical performance that explores the edges of the extreme. Even the everyday topic of unrequited love is a matter of life and death. "I just die at the thought of being alive at the same time as you," he crooned through the chorus of his biggest hit 'ESTELLA//', with the sincerity and potential insanity of someone who might actually pick death over loneliness. It's not enough just to love someone, you have to love them so much that you hate yourself. Not in a cry for help type of way, but in the way that we say "If this doesn't happen, I'm literally going to die" to ourselves 5 times a day over the most mundane of things. Heartbreak isn't the only topic Kenny touched on throughout the night (although it was touched on throughout the night on songs like '9-5 (love me)' and 'T-SHIRT//'), having ammunition for everything ranging from fake celebrity culture ('hollywood sucks//') to wrestling with your own mortality ('smoke break//') to music industry bullshit ('YOU NEEDED A HIT//'). Dripping with sweat after an 18 song set of constant movement and sound that included every song off 2021's SURVIVORS GUILT: THE MIXTAPE//, Kenny closed his show with an absolute exclamation point of the extreme by playing 'hollywood sucks//' for a second time. Some might see it as indulgent, but if playing a song elicits as strong a reaction as the first time he performed it, why not tap into that one more time?
Kennyhoopla's Raised By Wolves tour runs through October 14, 2023.
Kennyhoopla Selist - Metro, Chicago 10.6.23
silence is also an answer//
YOU NEEDED A HIT//
inside of heaven's mouth, there is a sweet tooth//
keep a window open//
DIRTY WHITE VANS//
MARRY KILL FUCK//
turn back time//
9-5 (love me)//
how will i rest in peace if i'm buried by a highway?//