Written by Jennifer Uskolovsky on July 14, 2022
Photos by: Alik Shehadeh
Wait a second, it’s been a minute! Bitch, I’m coming out like I’m nine months pregnant!
In preparation for 070 Shake’s four-day concert bender at the El Rey Theater, I religiously listened to her new album, You Can’t Kill Me. If you ever wondered where the haunting vocals present in Kids See Ghosts and ye came from, artist Dani Balbuena, better known by her stage name 070 Shake, is your answer. Being a fan of her sound but not extremely familiar with her discography, I went into her album with intrigue but without many expectations. You Can’t Kill Me blew me away with its pulsating synths, dramatic melodies, and pleasing auto-tuned vocals that are essential to 070 Shake’s now established brand.
Standing in line outside The El Rey Theater, my two friends and I were hyped for the show. The venue has a charming exterior with a rustic lit-up billboard and ticket booths, the inside lined with luscious red velvet curtains and a gaudy chandelier. I grabbed an overpriced mojito from the bar and made my way to the front of the crowd for the opening act.
Johan Lenox as an opener was, as an understatement, underwhelming. His combination of repetitive classical chords and whiny auto-tuned vocals was mundane and nothing extraordinary (although seeing masked women play classical instruments live was kind of cool). The majority of the crowd remained unreactive towards Lenox’s performance, excluding a group of four drunk white girls jumping to the violins, calling him “Zaddy,” and screaming his uninspiring lyrics about drinking, fucking, and smoking. His announcement that he would be playing for 15 more minutes of “classical music” to stall for Shake received a collective sigh from the audience. Lenox banging the same chords over and over with similar violin motifs turned into migraine pulses. Although in theory his music should be cool with his ideas of mixing classical progressions with modern synths and rap lyrics, it didn’t really translate, and his performance left the audience fatigued and itching for 070 Shake.
Soon after, a haunting monologue echoed throughout the theater. “LISTEN TO THE VOICE OF GOD. ASK HIM TO BOW.” Shake emerged onto the stage in a tailored suit, her face masqueraded by backlights. Her set possessed little to no spotlights or facial illumination. Throughout the show, 070 functioned like a silhouette, almost a vessel for her own music. It was refreshing to see a musician abstain from idolizing and iconizing themselves to their fans (which seems ironic in the face of her consistent work with self-proclaimed genius and god Kanye West).
Shake rolled through her setlist with confidence but a bit of jagged awkwardness, as this was the first time she’s toured since pre-Covid. The artist performed a hefty chunk of her new album, You Can’t Kill Me, much to my delight. The crowd screamed to the lead single, “Skin and Bones,” a melodic combination of synths and RnB that’s aligned with Shake’s sound. “Medicine,” one of my favorite tracks from the album, echoed through the venue as a melancholy and yearning ballad over a failed sapphic romance. Shake’s passion displayed in this song left my rib cage aching from her own heartbreak (but it might have been the rattling bass… or being crushed by the front of the barrier).
When you were sick, babe, I was your medicine… I’m your oxygen, but I’m cutting off your supply.
Waiting throughout the entire set, I finally got to hear my favorite song off the album, Cocoon. Shake restarted it four times. Four times. Whether this was a display of unprofessionalism or a showcase of easygoingness is up to the viewer; I personally enjoyed the chaos of the moment. The layered electronic vocals with minor chord synths throbbing on the backtrack make Cocoon a charged and primal, almost animalistic track that makes you want to rage when hearing it live.
Shake’s interaction with the audience made her concert stand out from others in recent years. The artist interrupted her set around six different times for communal breathing exercises, Hug-A-Stranger sessions, and instilling an almost cult-like energy into the audience. She kept applauding us for keeping up with her “high vibrations.” She exclaimed, “THIS IS HOW WE CELEBRATE LIFE!” There were people embracing 070 Shake’s spiritual moments… and there were people having their own interpretation of her high vibes, smoking weed in the middle of the venue and having security storm through and yell at them. From both perspectives, it was a fun time.
Suddenly, Shake switched up her energy, and in turn the energy of the room. “I WANNA SEE HOW Y’ALL RAGE.” I felt fear gripping at my chest. As a five-foot-two girl with a DSLR camera dangling on my neck, a moshpit sounded like a nightmare. Shake singled out one audience member trying to insert himself as the forming moshpit’s centerpiece, taunting him with a “Bro, I’m gonna have you stand in the middle, but can you handle it?” The first few chords of Shake’s hit house track, “Honey,” had the audience squealing in elation. I accept my fate in an almost biblical fashion, allowing myself to be taken by the rapture with shitty alcohol from paper cups blessing my body.
Butterflies… I know you feel it in your tummy, tummy, tummy! And you sting like a bee!
About halfway into her set, things get kinda weird. 070 Shake smeared a white, claylike substance on her face, her hands covered in moist clumps. She wrapped and choked herself with her own suit, screeching and struggling with her own self. Shake claims to embrace her eccentricity as an artist, saying, “I made something weird so nobody can tell me to be normal.” She elaborated in a short set break, thanking the crowd for “understanding my language, it’s not to be popular to not be #1, but I believe I’m here to heal and to be healed through my music.”
The crowd’s energy grew rowdier as the concert went on, to the point where towards the end I was being swallowed, not knowing my sweat from the people around me. Shake decided to end with two songs that weren’t her own: both being her features from Kanye and Kid Cudi projects. 070 climbed onto a security guard and reached her clay-covered hands out to her fans, everyone involved sweaty and tired but charged for one last chant of Kanye West’s “Ghost Town.”
I put my hand on a stove… to see if I still bleed, and nothing hurts anymore, I feel kinda free!
070 Shake left her concert on a high vibration, the audience in pure ecstasy after their favorite Kanye tracks reverberated in their ears. I left the venue drenched in sweat, too tired to partake in any of my plans afterward. The concert felt surreal afterward, and made me wonder whether this era of 070 Shake would really cement her as the popular artist she claims to never be.