Hobo Johnson & The LoveMakers
featuring Jeffrey Lewis and Oliver Tree
November 12, 2018 at House of Blues
This past March, I was in my room procrastinating doing my homework and scrolling through my Facebook timeline, when I found a YouTube video shared by dozens of my friends. The video, titled “Hobo Johnson & The LoveMakers – 2018 NPR Tiny Desk Contest (Peach Scone)” had already racked over a million views since its recent posting – and for good reason. At first sight, you see Hobo Johnson (whose real name is Frank Lopes Jr.) as a white dude with an afro and a blunt in his hand. He’s surrounded by his band (The LoveMakers), all comfortably dressed in the similar aesthetic of “I don’t give a sh*t about how I look.” I was initially confused about how the video went viral, Lopes’ style dances between rap and spoken-word poetry, and he is occasionally joined by his band screaming ends of lines. But by the end of the video where Lopes raps about confessing his love for a girl who is already in a relationship and compares her to a peach scone, I was hooked, and the video was on repeat for the rest of the night.
So when Hobo Johnson announced the “Bring Your Mom Tour” dates and locations, it was no surprise that Boston sold out Paradise Rock Club so quickly that the concert was moved to the House of Blues. The crowd ranged from high schoolers to college students who actually brought their mom to the tour, but the energy within the crowd was constant: everyone was ready to scream their lungs out to Lopes’ lyrics of anxiety and the pains of familial and romantic love.
First to take the stage was NYC-based musician Jeffrey Lewis and his backing band, Los Bolts. His sound is scratchy anti-folk mixed with a lot of drugs: an act so unconventional that it really could only work at a Hobo Johnson concert. Lewis announced that he was a comic book artist just as much as he was a musician and showcased his illustrations in a projected slideshow as he sang his songs. The first slideshow/song/story was about a Creeping Brain who took over the world and the second was about the history of the Mayflower. The audience appeared to be confused and a bit disturbed by the storylines, but we welcomed the new art form with open arms.
The second opener was rapper Oliver Tree, known for rocking a bowl cut he’s had since he was 9. My jaw dropped and stayed down when he stormed the stage in a Razor scooter and proceeded to strip off his jacket and JNCO pants to reveal his head-to-toe Solo Jazz Pattern outfit set. In fact, his drummer and keyboardist all had matching outfit sets, wild 90’s hairstyles and slim sunglasses. Oliver Tree was all over the stage, busting moves that came straight out of a Zumba class, often letting his hand dove guide him to his next location and ended every song in a dab. The set was a great energy boost before Hobo Johnson’s set.
At long last, Hobo Johnson & the LoveMakers stormed the stage, and you could tell from the initial looks on their faces that they were excited and humbled to be there. Since the band is still new to touring and fame, witnessing them perform for people who feel something in their music was special.
They started their set with the nostalgic track ‘See You Again,’ which begins with a soulful and raspy verse from the band’s keyboardist, Jmsey. Lopes jumped in with his entrancing rap and the band came together in beautiful harmony. All members of the LoveMakers shone in their own light and stayed true to their “I don’t give a sh*t about how I look” aesthetic. I’m talking the bassist not wearing pants and the band having an old couch on stage where members would have a beer when they weren’t playing.
The set wasn’t perfect: Lopes often choked up on lines or couldn’t focus on the song, but it was largely due to the crowd’s unconditional and overwhelming support. Seeing an entire venue losing themselves to the lyrics of tracks like ‘Romeo & Juliet’ and ‘Father,’ which are rooted in themes of anxiety and depression, was an overwhelming experience for myself. Thirteen bras (yes, thirteen) were thrown on the stage, voices were lost from screaming, and Hobo Johnson & the LoveMakers successfully found a way to make the House of Blues into an intimate venue where everything was going to be okay. If this is how strong the band is when they’re just starting out, I can’t wait to see them grow as artists and individuals.
Photos by Juliette Paige