I would like to be the first to formally apologize to Daniel Rossen for the god-awful crowd that attended the first solo performance of his career at Neumos Saturday night. For a show that should have been celebratory and transformative for Rossen, it was somewhat ruined by droves of idiots attempting to turn it into something about them instead.
Let me explain what Rossen’s performance wasn’t. It wasn’t a chance for innocuous festival bros to chide Rossen into playing songs he absolutely had no intention of performing. It wasn’t for any one person to dictate by screaming thoughts on whether or not he should sit or stand or be louder or quieter. It wasn’t about a grand retrospective, career-spanning set that touched on hits and B-sides at the whim of those in attendance. It wasn’t an IRL Reddit AMA where everyone tries to out-thirst one another by screeching for attention. To be honest, it wasn’t for any single person aside from Rossen himself. This was a chance for Rossen to test out some new material alongside a few old favorite that he knew fans would love. Basically it was, as he so diplomatically phrased it, “an experiment.”
But let’s start from the beginning. His opener, William Tyler was charming and filled the space between each song with small anecdotes about how he wrote music and memories about driving for most of the past week from Nashville in order to tour with Rossen. His picking ability is so fluid it’s unfair; he is a wizard and his guitar is his wand. He played a handful of complex instrumental songs before politely thanking the crowd and leaving the stage with ten minutes of his set to spare.
When Rossen began, he welcomed and thanked everyone before jumping into some of his lesser-known material, which did not please the nucleus of the crowd who were misinformed about this being the turn up function. This was not the turn up function.
After his first few songs, with dozens of voices bedecked with child-like need practically demanding Rossen to perform this or that, he looked into the crowd and replied, “I’m not going to play that,” and added with a smirk, “You can’t make me.” He only seemed half-joking.
The most tragic part of the interaction is how the crowd demanded more from Rossen, whose performance was nothing short of spectacular. His voice was a languid warble, only enhanced by the beautiful intricacies of his musicianship. He performed a Townes Van Zandt cover, a beautiful original that’s as of now is unreleased, and several deeper cuts like “Herring Bone,” which he proclaimed to be his favorite song written by Fred Nicolaus, the other half of Department of Eagles. Fans will be interested to know that he brought out a banjo he’s had for a decade, on which he wrote “Balmy Night,” and spoke to how he’d only written that and another song on it in the past ten years. Sadly, he was unable to tell more personal stories because of the wall of screaming children.
At the heart of Rossen’s show, and tour in general, is the promise of growth. It’s understandable why he’s interested in pursuing a solo career considering the success of his solo EP and the fact that Grizzly Bear is currently on a break. His tour marks the beginning of a new chapter for Rossen, where he can explore his artistic voice and better understand the direction he wants to take. Hopefully, last night is the ugly outlier of this era; an impolite and scattered first night that is eventually erased by respectful crowds who look on encouragingly.