Last night, standing by the merch table adjusting my camera for Maggie Rogers
' show at Brooklyn Steel, I asked myself an important question: if you're attending a concert professionally, is it still okay to buy merch?
For the last year, Maggie Rogers' success has been carried by the swift current of the internet. Over a year ago, a friend tagged me in the now-famous video that made Rogers' career: a NYU Tisch School of the Arts Masterclass interview with Pharrell, in which the hip hop artist was visibly moved by Rogers' powerful dance song "Alaska." The video made the rounds on the internet, and today has been viewed over 2.6 million times.
I loved the interview, and I loved the song. To me, it was a hymn to a young person's sense of discovery, and my own personal desire to explore the world. Like most newly converted Maggie Rogers fans, I went looking for more music. At the time her video with Pharrell was shot, she didn't have a lot available, but in 2017 she released the EP Now That the Light is Fading,
which featured another catchy tune, "On + Off."
After the energetic opener, Purr
, exited the stage, I got the chance to talk to a few Maggie Rogers fans standing in the front row.
"How did you hear about Maggie Rogers?" I asked the girl standing next to me. She, like a lot of Rogers' fans (including myself), was a 20-something with a camera out, ready to set up a shot of Rogers' opening number. She pointed to the friend standing next to her, who laughed. "She showed me."
"So how did you hear about Maggie Rogers?"
"I was applying to the same school as her."
"She went to NYU, right?"
"Yes," the girl answered, grinning.
"Did you get in?"
Maggie took the stage a few minutes later, her hair in a bun and a spangled cape draped around her shoulders. She began the show with a few moments of vocals-only, which dropped into a full-band number as Maggie whipped her hair out of her bun and threw back the cape triumphantly.
Personally, I like it when artists get chatty on stage. I know there are some die-hard concert goers who want music and nothing but music, but I like a little bit of banter between the audience and the stage, so I didn't mind Maggie's short monologues between songs, assuring the crowd that her concerts were safe spaces for the LGBT community and people of color, thanking the opening band Purr, and musing about how amazing it was to be home in Brooklyn.
"This summer… I've been to four different continents," Maggie told the crowd, before launching into a cover of "Harvest Moon" by Neil Young. Her roots, she mentioned in the NYU video with Pharrell, are in folk music--it was only after studying abroad in France that she began making dance music, which she hadn't considered interesting before her travels.
Dance music, or Roger's knack for combining dance rhythms with folksy lyrics, have clearly hit a chord with her fans. Rogers played the entirety of her Now That the Light is Fading
EP, plus a few covers. As a very new artist, whisked into a much-hyped career thanks to her viral video, there just weren't the years and years worth of polished songs to play for a packed house at Brooklyn Steel. Which isn't to say that Rogers didn't have the chops or the personality to be on stage; someone who didn't know better would think, by the way she frolicked easily around the stage during her song "Dog Years," her cape twirling around her, that she'd been performing for huge crowds for decades.
She picked up a guitar for one song, and some xylophone sticks for another, but didn't play any banjo, despite calling herself a "banjo player from the Eastern Shore of Maryland." Rogers did display her vocal prowess throughout her 90 minute set, belting "On + Off" and "Alaska" as her closing songs, and following them with an emotional encore.
"This is a really beautiful end to the beginning," Maggie reminded the crowd, before playing a melancholy cover of "Here's Where the Story Ends" by the Sundays.
Maggie Rogers plays at Brooklyn Steel again tonight (8/17) with opener Tor Miller. Check out more photos from the show here