By Jack Izzo
16 Nov, 2019
Describing Hobo Johnson to a person who hasn’t listened to him is a difficult task. Born Frank Lopes Jr, the Sacramento, California, native blends elements of spoken word poetry, emo rock and rap to create a distinct and unique sound that’s incredibly divisive. He’s reviled by some and loved by others. If you’ve heard of Hobo Johnson, you probably saw his Tiny Desk Concert audition that went viral back in 2018 and eventually landed his band, Hobo Johnson & The LoveMakers, on the NPR series. When I saw that Tiny Desk Concert, I knew I wanted to see him live. And he did not disappoint.
When I walked up the stairs into the concert hall of the House of Blues, I was immediately taken aback by just how many people were there. The GA pit was packed and HOB employees were blocking people from going in, so I was left to stand behind the pit on the ledge surrounding it and listen to the serenading sounds of the openers. But the last opener, Mom Jeans, was a whole other level.
At one point, Eric Butler, the vocalist of Mom Jeans, told the crowd, “You can talk s*** about me on the internet later.”
Luckily for Butler, there isn’t anything bad to say. The San Francisco-based indie quartet plays music akin to American Football or other Midwest emo bands with a pop-punk tinge. They had amazing stage presence, jamming, jumping and hyping the crowd up at every turn. Sam Kless, the bassist, served as the primary hypeman for the group, getting the crowd clapping, cheering, waving hands, or whatever else he felt like. Needless to say, I’ll be checking out more of Mom Jeans’ stuff.
After a short intermission, Frank Lopes and the rest of Hobo Johnson & The LoveMakers emerged from behind the curtain, to the cheers of fans who had been chanting for Frank to come out long before he did. His opening song, “Mover Awayer,” had the crowd jumping to the point that the floor started bouncing, and it didn’t stop for the rest of the concert. Lopes matched the energy of the crowd. By the end of “Mover Awayer,” he was already tired from running around stage. Lopes took a breath and told the crowd that the show would be “songs from the new album, songs from the old album and pop hits of the 2000s.”
He delivered on his promise, with excellent performances of “Romeo and Juliet,” the most energetic piano ballad I’ve heard, and “Subaru Crosstrek XV,” which he performed partially as a slam poem and partially a song. Later, he played Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles.” Frank Lopes cannot sing well. It didn’t matter. The crowd sang the entire show for him.
The best moment of the show, however, came in two parts. About halfway through the set, Lopes introduced the song “February 15th” by saying he would play “Wonderwall” by Oasis. The crowd took the idea to heart, yelling for Lopes to play “Wonderwall” throughout the show. Later, Lopes admitted to the crowd he didn’t know how to play it. But one audience member in the front row did and Lopes took note. At the end of the show, he brought the fan on stage for a bootleg live cover of “Wonderwall,” before closing it out with his encore, a cover of “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire.
I ran into the Wonderwall player, Walker Johnson, later and asked him about it. He said that he was incredibly pumped to be playing up there, and even briefly considered singing along with Lopes before deciding against it.
What more can I say? Frank Lopes knows what the crowd wants and he’s willing to give it to them. Overall, it was an excellent performance. And no matter how you feel about Lopes’ music, it would be hard to argue against that.