Last Wednesday, The Outsiders stopped by the Enchanted Broccoli Forest to play a set that got the denizens of EBF Happy Hour even more excited than usual. Though both graduated last year, artists Eli Arbor (Elliot Williams ’15) and gage (Megan Gage ’15) returned to Stanford, joining EAGLEBABEL (Tyler Brooks ’16), Jae (Janei Maynard ’16) and Jess (Jessica Spicer ’17) in an exchange of raps and vocals over the course of the night. Needless to say, it was an amazing show, characterized by infectious energy, range and skill.
All this comes as no surprise — it’s The Outsiders, after all — but, due in part to the distinctive nature of the venue, this show stood out as particularly unique. The Outsiders’ work demonstrates impressive range, from hard-hitting tracks perfectly suited for a late-night party to heartbreaking songs intimate enough for a living room. As EBF’s Happy Hour fits more in the former category, energetic tracks like their “O/X1” mixtape highlight “Hurr About Us” felt right at home. Yet more intimate tracks like EAGLEBABEL’s “Tryin’” and Eli Arbor’s “My Paradise” lost none of their power. In fact, they felt amplified by the contrast.
The covers were as striking as the originals, providing some of the most high-energy moments of the night. Introducing one of them, EAGLEBABEL said simply, “I forgot one ode on the last tape” — referring to his debut solo EP “Odes,” in which each song refers to an artist who inspired him — before diving into a stirring cover of Missy Elliott’s “Wake Up.” Another likewise dazzling cover was the concert-closing rendition of Kanye West’s “Monster,” featuring Jess’s fierce raps on the Nicki Minaj verse. Every fist in the room was in the air as EAGLEBABEL, Jess, Eli, and co. shouted, “I’mma need to see your fucking hands at the concert.”
At the same time, some of the most arresting songs at The Outsiders’ performance on Wednesday were the more intimate tracks, all the more compelling in contrast to the venue’s usual intensity. EAGLEBABEL’s “Tryin’,” a standout track from his “Odes” EP, was a clear high point. The crowd that had been cacophonous a minute before was now almost hushed, as EAGLEBABEL delivered the song’s most devastating couplet, “If I ever said that I loved you I would be lyin’ / So yeah that makes two, but why does it feel like I got the blame for tryin’?”
Likewise, Eli Arbor’s “My Paradise,” a highlight from his debut “IDols,” stunned the crowd with its honest depiction of an interracial relationship in a world of prejudice. Sobering lines like “And she cares, but some things she’ll never get / Like when we get pulled over — keep your cool or I’m dead” rang out vividly over the sounds of Happy Hour. Eli’s raps and gage’s ethereal vocals wove in and out against the otherwise-raucous night. “And it’s not like I don’t wanna be with her / I just gotta be sure that I’m me with her,” he sang. Although it was a bustling setting for such intimate lines, Eli made it work.
And that’s what The Outsiders do. They make it work — whatever it happens to be. They pull together a wide variety of interests, ideas, emotions and talents, and they do it with grace and skill. And then they proceed to make it look effortless. We witnessed this at EBF last Wednesday, and we will undoubtedly see it again in their future endeavors.
Contact Tyler Dunston at tdunston ‘at’ stanford.edu.