The Studio at Webster Hall was drenched in glitter and good vibes Tuesday night, when indie rock prodigy Declan McKenna
performed to a sold out crowd. It was one of the last concerts before the classic East Village venue closes indefinitely and transitions to new corporate ownership. Though it desperately needs some renovations, one of Webster Hall's best features is its support for up-and-coming artists like McKenna, who came to life in front of what felt like some of his closest friends.
I should start by saying that when I first heard Declan McKenna's "Brazil" two years ago, I couldn't stand it. There was something so annoying about it, but I couldn't really place my frustration on anything concrete. Was it the fact that it was a FIFA diss track, or that it sounded like there was a completely different song attached to the end? The song was everywhere in 2015, another one of those supposedly revolutionary college radio favorites. Even though I kept telling myself I didn't like it, I couldn't stop listening.
If there were any doubts about McKenna's talent, seeing him perform live squashes them immediately. The entire show felt like being wrapped up in a bone-crushing hug. Youthful optimism filled the room, making even outsiders feel welcome in a community of loving fans. There's something really special about the young artist, and it wasn't until seeing him take control of the stage that I figured out why his music left me feeling so inspired. McKenna resonates with young people because he disproves the most popular misconception about millennials - that they don't care.
Too many people don't realize how smart and thoughtful teenagers are, or just can't be bothered to change their own outdated opinions about youth culture. Millennials are dubbed selfish and spoiled on a daily basis, when we're really just trying to navigate a world plagued by the problems left behind by an older generation. McKenna challenges everything you think you know about teenagers' priorities, boldly integrating his thoughts about police brutality, transgender rights, and economic injustice into his music.
On stage, McKenna isn't weighed down by the heaviness of these topics. He brings an easy energy and youthful sense of humor, inviting the audience into his world of glittering positivity. Between songs, he jokes about being "dubbed voice of a generation by some, and generic indie landfill by everyone else," and effortlessly quotes Rick and Morty
. His crowd surfing during "Humongous" and dancing on the bar in the "Paracetamol" refrain reminds you that even though he's tackling serious issues with his music, McKenna is still just a kid.
It shouldn't be the responsibility of a teenager with a guitar to raise awareness for global injustices, but McKenna seems to accept that role proudly. His writing makes you pay attention to more than just melodies, and being in the crowd of his show makes you feel like part of something bigger. Webster Hall might never be the same after this summer, but Declan McKenna proved the venue's legacy will live on.