Nov. 14, 2014
The New Parish, Oakland
Throngs of Oakland-dwelling, finger-on-the-pulse jailbait stood in line at The New Parish last Friday, waiting to see The Stand4rd perform. The hip mix of teens and 20-somethings wore their hair tall, held spare cigarettes in their ear gauge openings, and competed for airspace with dueling cell phone speakers emitting brassy underground rap tracks.The scene was a sea of streetwear; Been Trill logos and messages promoting independent projects occupied every available space on tees and hoodies. Most of them were there to see the outfit’s most prominent member, Spooky Black.
Spooky Black is something of an enigma. Sixteen years old and hailing from St. Paul, Minnesota, Black first came onto the radar with his song “Without You” and its accompanying video, which was released in February of this year. The track went viral and he became something of an Internet sensation, although his identity remains a mystery and his interaction with media is virtually nonexistent. All that is known about the young artist is what is revealed through his music. His buttery alternative-R&B style is oft likened to that of James Blake and The Weeknd. His lyrics are decidedly sensual, grappling with broad romantic notions.
Black linked up with Psymun, Bobby Raps, and Allan Kingdom to form The Stand4rd and set out on their first tour, a six-city event taking place over 20 days that launched out of the group’s hometown of St. Paul.
After a nearly two-hour opening dj set, the group positioned themselves on stage and said it was the biggest crowd they’d had yet. Instead of the black turtleneck, gold chain and durag that Black had become known for, he donned an unidentified “Mystery” band tee. After a few songs from their eponymous debut album, replete with Spooky Black’s signature croon, Allan Kingdom asked the crowd, “Can this dude sing in real life or what?” A tour-favorite phrase, granted, but the audience cheered in concurrence because, well, he could.
At that point, a section of the crowd lurched, and a security guard bolted behind the band and swung off stage to break up a fight. After the briefest pause of shock, the group began to play “Without You” (a peace offering? Perhaps). Virtually every person in the audience, on the floor and hanging from the balcony, threw themselves into the lyrics, “See my face when I slide through / Every place I will find you…” nearly drowning out the band completely, Ed Sullivan Show style. He capped it off with an “I really fuck with you, Oakland.”
Playing Black’s most famous song so early on in the set had the effect of dispersing the crowd a bit. It was fairly obvious that the other members were more-or-less expendable in the audience’s eyes, although they were certainly talented.
Photo by Conner Evert