Music is many things to many people—but at its core, it’s a human creation, a tool used for expressing ideas and emotions too complex for language, for tapping into something more visceral, more primal. When used to harness frustration, disenfranchisement, or anger, music transcends its utility to become a powerful weapon.
Artists like grandson understand how to wield that weapon in the service of the righteous anger of their message while balancing on a knife’s edge the entertainment of the crowd.
grandson is 25-year-old Canadian/American Jordan Benjamin, whose genre-blending sound pays homage to the classic roots of blues, gospel, soul, funk, and rock while also upending them with the sheen of modern electronic production and a delivery style somewhere between singing, spoken word, and hip-hop.
grandson played one of the staple venues of the DC music scene: Rock & Roll Hotel on the H Street Corridor. It was a fitting location, sitting at the heart of one of the city’s fastest changing neighborhoods and a focal point of the debate on social inequality, race, and gentrification – and only a stone’s throw from the current heart of darkness that is the U.S. Capitol.
grandson’s lyrics are often political, if thinly veiled behind catchy riffs and melodies. The previously mentioned righteous anger was harnessed in full force, something of a catharsis for the sold out, all-ages crowd. Opening with the blunt force of “Stigmata,” a no-holds-barred discourse on the victims of overseas military actions, he came strong on its heels with “6:00,” a rolling commentary on police violence against people of color. The crowd didn’t shy away from the heavyweight lyrics and message, wading in whole-heartedly to the seething energy.
My personal favorite of the night was 2018’s “Stick Up,” a surprisingly well-executed live performance that had the entire crowd bouncing and moshing along:
Get down on the ground! It’s a stick up! Nobody make a sound! Don’t even hiccup, or I’m emptying a round! I’m done playing games, so I’m going down in flames! Let it rain over Washington! It’s a stick up! Nobody make a sound! Don’t even hiccup, or I’m emptying a round! I’m done playing games, so I’m going down in flames! Let it rain over Washington!
– “Stick Up” from a modern tragedy vol. 1 (2018)
Through the course of the night, grandson deftly lead fans along a path of political discourse most entertainers avoid, and it speaks to the modern socio-political landscape that such a highly politicized message was heartily embraced by the crowd.
grandson finished a grueling spring tour with amazing supporting acts BarlowLN and Des Rocs and is headed into the summer festival season making appearances at Rockville 2019, Epicenter Festival, and Hangout Festival before heading off to a mix of festivals and tour dates in the UK.