written by Mack Wagner
After breaching the transit system, I step off the B train and scuttle towards a line of mostly college-aged kids inching towards the double-door entrance of the Paradise Rock Club in Boston, Massachusetts.
Post security check and pat down, a dull green hallway, ridden with posters and names of past performers (including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ween, Billy Joel, Wilco, Joan Jett, and the Pixies), funnels me into a room buzzing with anticipation for the second night of quickly up and coming, independent Maryland rapper-producer redveil’s first headlining tour titled “Water 2 Fire.”
Locally known as “the Paradise,” this venue has a capacity of around 900 bodies. Offering up general admission tickets only, concert-goers have a choice of an intimate floor view or a less crowded position on the wrap-around balcony. Five feet tall and traumatized from moshes of past, I barreled up a sticky staircase to claim a spot on the balcony overlooking the merch table. I had a prime view of the stage and added bonus of a sneak peek into a warmly-lit hallway off stage left where I would later catch glimpses of redveil and his crew getting ready for an unforgettable, monsoon show.
The night was opened by Chicago rapper femdot. (born Femi Adigun) with support from DJ Zelle, one of redveil’s day-ones from Prince George’s County, Maryland. Though I hadn’t heard his music before, I found his beats impossible to resist bouncing to. He did an amazing job of engaging the crowd, priming them for second opener D’Mari Harris.
Harris, also from PG County in Maryland, appears on redveil’s freshman and sophomore albums, Bittersweet Cry and Niagara. His performances with redveil are impressive, but I am thankful for his solo R&B/Soul sound and performance. His melodic, composed presence didn’t inhibit his energy with crowd, as his obvious connection with DJ Zelle and presence on stage was vibrant and invigorating. After his set and before redveil’s turn to take the stage, I was able to ask Harris a few questions by catching him at the merch table. Memorably, he said that this tour was a “full-circle moment” after sharing the that his and redveil’s first performance together was at their high school talent show, and here they are playing sold out shows together.
As I waited for redveil’s entrance from my perch, I watched a girl with curly brown hair approach the guys running the merch table with a pink, handmade balaclava. A taller guy with longer hair and jazzed energy, who I later learned to be redveil’s tour manager named Benjamin, disappeared with the mask. The mask then reappeared in my view of backstage over redveil’s head as he fulfilled a pre-show ritual with D’Mari Harris and DJ Zelle, bowing their heads with hands on each others’ backs. After spotting the creator of the mask, Boston University student Lila Lucia, standing behind me, I pull her over to catch a view of her successful attempt to connect with the headlining artist. As we happy dance together, an example of the lovely, random interactions that happen at concerts, DJ Zelle invites redveil to the stage.
redveil bursts out of his backstage enclave to his latest single, “Gift Bag.” His energy covers the stage in molten lava, violently bubbling out the unforgettable lyrics…
“N**** GET OFF MY D***
THEN GET OUT MY GIFT BAG”
With his 19th birthday just around the corner on April 20th and his exponential rise to just over 2.5 MILLION monthly streams on Spotify, this song choice to start his set makes his message clear: redveil is “in a rush, can’t be sick,” and isn’t here to play.
Though this song shows redveil isn’t afraid of risk and high reward, he got real for a moment, sharing with the crowd that when he hears chants of his legal name, Marcus, at shows it still “throws him the f*** off.”
Admittedly, I came into this show with lower expectations, telling myself to not expect too much from his second night of his first headlining tour. I have never been humbled quicker.
A mist hung in the air, I couldn’t tell if it was a fog machine or cloud of sweat created from the mosh. Either way, it added to the thick atmosphere of the small venue. During his entire set redveil showed near mastery of the stage by making his concert a collaborative project involving everyone in attendance. Before his synthy-piano melody was introduced for his performance of “morphine (da ways)” from his 2022 album learn 2 swim, he conducted the crowd in chanting…
“Please. don’t. weigh. me. down,
please. don’t. weigh. me. down.”
The second time redveil put the Bostonian crowd in a trance occurred in his performance of “Weight,” the second track of his sophomore album Niagara. Collaborative and grounding, redveil hypnotized the crowd from the front of the stage, close enough for the people on the barrier to touch his patchy red jeans that matched his hair and New Balances. The sold-out crowd was called to carry the melody from “Weight’s” sample, (look this up!!) Father’s Children’s “I Really Really Love You.” People sang the siren-like scale through the entire performance as they basked in violet and pink pulsing lights.
At this point I was itching for an interview with someone part of redveil’s team, so I returned to the merch table and asked if there was anyone I could ask a few questions to. Teddy, a kind, Californian-looking but Chicago-loving guy, pointed me to Benjamin Harrington, redveil’s tour manager, who took me outside the concert venue to a fluorescent-lit, cigarette-smelling alley for an informal, but unforgettable, interview.
I uncovered a few stories that display redveil’s incontestable promise and drive.
I told Benjamin that I was chatting with a current senior from Northwestern who brought redveil to their school for their music festival a year or two ago. She mentioned that redveil requested chicken pot pies for their green room, a lovely request, but I was curious where that request came from. Benjamin responded with a chuckle and pointed out that chicken pot pies contain something from each food group and brings comfort to pre-performance nerves. All of a sudden, like the sheep I am, I began craving a chicken pot pie.
Within the rest of our conversation, we chatted about redveil’s quick rise to his own headlining tour and the dynamics of their tour team. Benjamin displayed his own amazement, not at redveil’s accomplishments, as Benjamin was a clear believer, but at the quick time table this young career has run on.
Benjamin told me his own origin story, starting as a photographer at Lollapalooza, turning to informal tour manager for a festival redveil did last year, to his current, official gig as tour manager for the Water 2 Fire tour. Having worked with redveil in his previous 50 shows that happened JUST in 2023, Benjamin shouted out Denzel Curry, another independent rapper who redveil has collaborated with, for helping redveil “open up his performance style, teaching him to navigate the bigger stage.” I learned that redveil, in preparation for this tour, practiced his entire set while RUNNING on the treadmill to work on breath control and stamina. So f****** cool.
Benjamin also spoke on the power of D’Mari Harris, DJ Zelle, and redveil’s connection, noting that they are all supportive of and inspire each other. We closed out the interview with both of us not wanting to miss the rest of redveil’s set where he performed music from his then-unreleased and much anticipated EP playing w/ fire. I ended by asking Benjamin if there was anything I missed, he responded saying to let the people know…
“Don’t be late.”
redveil’s future success won’t be a surprise to his supportive team, collaborators, and current fan base, but don’t miss him while he’s still on the up and up. I have a vision that this kid from PG County, who is younger than me (barf) and still learning 2 swim, will, very soon, be walking on water.