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Concert Series: MIKE

Opening Acts: 454, Niontay, El Cousteau

Writing by: DeVan Whitaker & Trent "Pax" Lowder

Film Photos by: Trent "Pax" Lowder

The Somebody Find Me Tour was a flush of notably unique talent that offered sounds you likely won’t hear anywhere else in one place. Granted, Portland is very unique itself, and unlike many stops of the tour. The Hawthorne Theater was a great place to be on that Sunday night MIKE and company arrived.

El Cousteau

The evening kicked off with a star in the making, El Cousteau, a rapper based in D.C. who’s actually from the other Washington on our side of the map. Having seen a stage like Rolling Loud alongside A$AP Rocky with over 40,000 fans, he carried that type of energy, and didn’t minimize himself to try to fit the stage.

Playing songs from his 2023 album, Dirty Harry, as well as a bit of new material, his range of energy shined as he could take songs from 0-60 in a second. He had by far the most booming instrumentals of the night combined with a triumphant swag and supreme, self-loving confidence that broke the ice in the room quickly. To close his set, El Cousteau came down from the stage to be with the heart of the crowd, as he played one of his most explosive tracks, “Nitro”. For two minutes straight, El Cousteau put the exclamation point on a great opening set. It’s possible you might have come to the show not having heard of El Cousteau, but he managed an emphatically memorable performance, as much as anyone who hit the stage that evening.


Following the relatively under the radar opener, El Cousteau, another sleeper hit-maker took the stage in the form of the subgenre-melding Niontay. Pulling from all of the major hip-hop regions but with a centralized alternative-Southern cadence, he traveled all over the landscape with performances from his lone LP, Dontay’s Inferno, and a sprinkling of singles and features to fill the gaps.

Niontay’s catalog features tracks like “Da City of a Hunnid Playas'' boasting a distinct Memphis trap influence, or “Bac2highBac2reality” with its hints of 80’s Brooklyn electro-rap (think Afrika Bambataa) and, hell, even some of the dusty, R&B-adjacent lo-fi that is consistent with current NYC underground sounds on “1000 Miles Away..”.

Clearly, Niontay is a savant as far as executing differing styles in an effective way, but a critical component exists that gels that variety together to make his music his own: that cool, calm charisma that many try to emulate but few actually possess. His stage presence was captivating, but not boisterous, and he resists deviating too far from his breezy delivery. Effortless is maybe the best way to describe his performance, in that he stayed in the pocket and kept it simple. Not to say he never upped the ante; some of his tracks inherently cranked the energy dial up a notch or two, but it was never manufactured and always felt natural.

The audience members that were familiar with Niontay prior to this show knew they were getting a bonus treat of novel instrumentals and fun, solid raps but a larger majority in the crowd were probably coming away from the show saving Niontay’s album for the first time, clambering to be the first in the group chat to say “you’ve got to check this dude out”, and pushing him further from “underground” to “underrated”.


Contrasting pretty majorly to the sets prior, 454 brought a flurry of energy from tip-off. Due to his patented pitched-up vocals and hyper-pop adjacent instrumentals, it became borderline impossible not to be jolted into a different kind of viewership when he took over. Hailing from the Orlando area but based in NYC, the rapper-skateboarder has gained a cult following at a rapid pace since his 2021 debut, 4 REAL, and is growing that audience with his follow up FAST TRAX 3. He can also claim a handful of tracks with the likes of Denzel Curry, Zelooperz, and numerous collabs with producer evilgiane, to fame.

The performance: electric. 454’s trips across the stage likely outpaced the rest of the performers combined, easily resulting in the highest tempo of the lineup. That very sentiment is the essence of his music: even when teetering closer to the atmospheric end of his stylistic scale, he maintains a pep and a bounce that keeps audiences moving. It was borderline impossible to not fall victim to 454’s groove, like a spell cast over everyone near and far. Whether he was bumping the remarkably quotable and smoky “ANDRETTI” or one of his twitchier tracks like “STITCH + LILO”, the crowd was consistently engrossed in his presence and the gravity of his songs, evident in the waves of dancing from start to finish.

Because of the energy level and intrinsic spark of 454’s music, his set seemed to fly by leaving everyone in the building smiling and probably a tinge sweatier than before he came into the picture. Every performance of the night had a common thread of injecting soul into their craft through distinct and original means but 454 was an underrated but key ingredient of the recipe.


By the time MIKE hit the stage, the crowd had already been treated to a trio of sets that funneled perfectly into the headliner. With such a depth of discography at his young age, MIKE’s hour-or-so long setlist was a flashy highlight reel from the flurry of music he’s dropped of late. With Pinball being his latest album release, it was somewhat surprising to see the emphasis on other recent albums for this tour, but his mastery over performing those songs is totally apparent.

MIKE shows how moodier underground artists can turn up in subtle ways. For someone whose material has largely revolved around lo-fi production and overwhelmingly sullen lyrics, you’d almost be surprised at the levity and grace his performances radiate. With his heart worn proudly on a t-shirt sleeve, MIKE put every ounce of passion and body language into rapping clearly, bringing lyrics forward, and humanizing his deeply personal songs on yet another level.

Whether it was “What Do I Do” or “THEY DON’T STOP IN THE RAIN,” MIKE played songs that ignited various sections of the crowd if not the crowd altogether. Sparingly, he’d turn the clock back to a song like “Whole Wide World,” a very near-and-dear track to MIKE from 2019’s tears of joy. From there, he could always flex to tracks like “African Freak Sex Fantasy”, or “Stop Worry!” to highpoint the energy in the room; it often occurred to me what a feel for the stage that MIKE has developed through many, many performances.

MIKE’s large frame and warm disposition is magnetizing, and his genuine air of gratitude and positivity toward the crowd made him even more likable. He made a point of interacting with the audience, calling and responding often, and keeping a perpetual vibe check going between tracks. From the way he acknowledged people, to the variety of tracks he played, it felt like he made good on the tough task of pleasing just about everybody. I’d long anticipated my first time getting to see MIKE perform, and he delivered on presence, catalog, and vocals alike, making it everything I had hoped for.


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