Photos taken by Amber Xu
The Fonda Theatre was not prepared for the spectacle that was about to unravel on the night of November 6th. The central stage, flanked by baroque pillars standing underneath an intricate cupola, stood still with its velvet curtains drawn. The crowd slowly rumbled in anticipation as the clock crept forward. The setting was perfectly curated for the genre-blending show Genesis Owusu sought to put on. Hailing from Ghana and growing up in Australia, Owusu has always infused his lived experience into his music, drawing from jazz, hip-hop, funk, and punk. With a dynamic and ever-evolving discography, it was inevitable that excitement was building.
Right at 8:30 pm, the curtains swung open revealing a single hooded figure in front of the microphone. With laser lights attached to their palms, the figure began a theatrical opera performance, instantly gripping the attention of the audience. Accompanying the figure was a large screen with AI-generated visuals and characters – bearing a resemblance to Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz project. The music quickly picked up pace as the opera halted, pushed out by a booming bass-heavy dance beat and flashing lights.
The DeepFaith, a self-proclaimed “digital dimension” of art and music, commanded the stage. A music project by Australian artists Byron Spencer and Daniel Stricker, the performance immersed the audience into its hysteric digital world. A woman accompanied the performers on stage with sensors strapped to her limbs as she controlled the AI-generated avatars, from Snoop Dogg to Kanye West, on the screen behind. The psychedelic punk opera performance raged on as the singer removed their cloak to expose flashing lights on their chest, turning the theatre into a disco floor.
Concluding their performance, the artists shouted out their merch for sale – a gray shirt with the slogan “Deep Faith Fatherly Advice 99 Cents Per Minute” scribbled across the front. A fitting shirt for an eclectic group of multi-instrumentalists and cyber visionaries.
It didn’t take long for Genesis Owusu to take the stage, showered by bright flashing lights. Draped in a large leather cloak, sunglasses, and sandals, it was clear that he was ready to put on a show. Fueled by the vivacity of the crowd, Owusu fully controlled the atmosphere as he pranced around the stage, arms wide open. It’s his world and we’re just living in it. The floor immediately surged forward as he dived into the lead track of his latest album, STRUGGLER.
For Owusu, STRUGGLER represents something much bigger than just an album. The project is a celebration of the strength of humanity to be able to get up each and every day and persevere in the face of bullshit. Sharing his own struggles with making it through each day, the performance was intimate and real. With tracks like “Leaving The Light” and “The Old Man”, Owusu had the crowd jumping and jostling in commemoration of the indomitable human spirit.
Owusu imbued an infectious danceable energy into tracks like “WUTD” and “Balthazar”. I couldn’t help but groove to the catchy yet heavy guitar riffs. Evoking the energy of other dance artists such as Duckwrth, Owusu had the floor rolling. Dotting his performances were short interludes where he would read a book, tying together the cinematic theme of the performance and the album. As a transition between songs, the book acted as a physical metaphor for Owusu as a character in his own story – the “struggler” in his journey to survive the obstacles God is throwing his way.
The show wasn’t over yet though. The music video for Owusu’s song, “Stay Blessed”, is a three-minute clip of Owusu moshing with a crowd of his fans. So, in celebration of the special moment, he decided to do it again.
As the rhythmic beat of the drums began echoing from the stage, Owusu jumped off into the crowd, dancing and moshing with the audience. It was a special moment to see an artist pour his heart into a community that believed in him.
Scrambling back onto the stage, Owusu expressed his love and appreciation for being able to share his vision with us. But as he was disassembling from the stage, the crowd was still hungry. After hearing chants for an encore, Owusu shyly came back on stage, jokingly expressing, “You want another song? From lil ol’ me?”
The crowd was on edge, ravenously waiting for what the final song of the night was about to be. All hell broke loose as soon as the crowd heard the words, “Fear the Roach. / Love the Roach.”
For any listener who enjoys alternative takes on soul, funk, and hip-hop, Owusu has an incredible catalog of music waiting for you to tear into. Or, if you’re just tired of having to trudge through the bullshit, Owusu is here for you too. STRUGGLER is not just Owusu’s story – it’s a story that speaks to all of us.