I’ve been waiting to see George Clanton in concert again since Desert Daze 2019. During that weekend, I remember being a little hesitant, maybe even prejudice against, seeing any artist that would make their name a play on another artist’s name. Something about that gesture never sat right with me for my own elitist reasons. As it turns out, Clanton is George’s birth name.
That weekend in 2019, when I got to the Temple stage to see his performance, I realized George Clanton was the most powerful, imaginative and ambitious musical mind at the entire festival. The tone of his electronics simultaneously cut right through to the core of your heart while warming that infinite substance inside that you call a soul, all while making that material prison of a body dance like crazy. I try to put myself in the shoes of George Clanton when the first fizzle of an idea for a new composition comes into his mind like an arrow straight from God and I just can’t imagine how cool it is to feel such pretty abstractions playing out to such a wonderful soundtrack. George Clanton is one of those alien boys, not quite like the rest of the population but having the power to show us who we really are after living among us. There’s something about his vaporwave music that really makes us feel and become aware of our own humanity.
Since that Desert Daze performance, George headlined the Lodge Room on New Years Eve 2019, which I missed after battling a severe cold. So, I’ve been waiting two years to to see him in concert again in Los Angeles. This 1720 show was not only about me getting my fix but this was the most vaporwave-packed, 100% Electronica banger of the year.
George Clanton wasn’t the only future musical icon performing at this show. Magdalena Bay released two stellar albums, Mercurial World in 2021 and A Little Rhythm and A Wicked Feeling in 2020 to launch her to the front of the line in terms of underground pop musicians that should take over the world with their music. With these two electronic heavyweights slated for my evening, I knew by the time the show was finished, I would somehow have become a little more evolved, mentally, spiritually, mercurially, and nostalgically.
The official queen of vaporwave, Negative Gemini started the party with a DJ set that made everyone realize how much of a banger Aqua’s Barbie Girl is. The vaporwave movement in general loves rehashing the glory days of 90’s music and if you look closely at the culture as a whole, the trend seems to be permeating into everything. When people take a microscope to this small blip of cultural history and wonder who was responsible for this movement, I’m going to give them the scoop that 100% Electronica started the fire. George Clanton delivering a cover of Third Eye Blind’s “Semi-Charmed Life” was just another example of how no modern artist has done more to make the 90’s cool again. Vaporwave doesn’t seek to recreate the sound as much as they want to recreate the vibe because there’s something oddly futuristic about 90’s retro.
Caroline Loveglow surprised the audience with music that was less beat driven and was more grounded in the mysterious soul craft of classic synth pop, arguably one of vaporwave’s mother genres. Caroline’s music was sweet and tender and reawakened the sensitive depths of the audience’s hearts. Fluttering guitars and transcendently divine vocals, married before our ears and this was essential to the wholeness of the evening. We had to feel something before we could dance with all our hearts.
Coming out in retro-space age spandex and platform boots, Magdalena Bay represents the perfect version of underground weirdness dancing with mainstream pop sensibilities. Her sound is definitely more nuanced than the average pop star’s, playing with elements of funk and disco reminiscent of Earth, Wind and Fire on one song then getting harsher and noisier on the next track to blow your mind out of this world. The trajectory her career is on right now makes it clear all we have to do is wait to see her performing at arenas. She put her whole heart into the show, running across the stage to make sure every piece of audience was able to connect with her up close. Personally, what I like most about Ms. Bay is her lyrics which I feel examine deeper sentiments than most pop, often incorporating surrealism into her personal stories and heartfelt anthems.
You could feel the anticipation in the air, it was obvious the moment his backdrop was up, George Clanton was going to make 1720 pop. As soon as he busted out into “Livin’ Loose” to begin, the place went bananas. The mix of heavy fog, warm tones, a cold beat, epic performance, and a vivid collage of popular imagery, combined to make the experience a slice of heaven on Earth. George Clanton shows are a sampler for the entire human experience as felt through electronic music. He makes you feel the whole range of experiences that come with a human life, you see images of your childhood like the Playstation logo or aliens and smiling faces–it’s almost a collage of your life through what you’ve consumed–then you see words like GOD displayed in giant letters and you think about how the music you’ve heard relates to your higher power. By the end of the show, after you’ve reflected on your life and danced your butt off, you leave the venue closer to your spiritual center.
George Clanton gave a part of his soul to the audience that night, sweating, stripping and getting up close and personal with his adoring fans. He’s tapped into the right sounds that make the mind stir. Sounds that trigger goodness and spiritual growth in the body. It’s hard to put your finger on it but if you were out in the world and the sounds Clanton uses were isolated for you to encounter out of the context of a song, you would still be deeply stimulated by those tones. I got everything I wanted and more from this show, George Clanton delivered as always. Though it might be hard to tell now because vaporwave is still sort of niche, I imagine someday Clanton will be the new generation’s Bowie.
Words by: Rob Shepyer
Photos by: Dillon Vaughn