Photos by Sam Gehrke. Words by Bryan Kalbrosky.
Atmosphere represents a lot of things in my life: an intro into an obsessive relationship with indie rap, the most played artist on Spotify via Bluetooth in my living room and the dude who provided me with a fun September night in Eugene.
The crowd at the McDonald Theatre was fairly diverse (as far as Eugene rap shows go) and fans seemed stoked to reconnect with rapper Slug and producer Ant. Atmosphere draws from a variety of sonic influencers, and delivers a sound widely appreciated in the greater music community. Concertgoers that I traveled with even asked our Uber ridesharing driver if he ever got down with Atmosphere — though he claimed to not like rap music, he appreciated the sampling that we gave him from one of our cell phones.
Prof (another Minneapolis rapper from the Rhymesayers label) was an entertaining opener, who I enjoyed from the “21 and over” balcony. But when Atmosphere came on, it was time to move down and party with the general admission folk.
As the lights went down, this immediately proved to be a good decision: Slug even mentioned that it felt more like a “family reunion” than a party here in Eugene. The overall message that he hoped to share is that it was a beautiful day to be alive and that “God Loves Ugly”— which is the title of his famous 2002 LP, and has become a trademark phrase from Atmosphere.
Slug and Ant have been making music together for a helluva long time, longer than many of the patrons of the show have been alive. “The force is too strong, it’s been going too long: since 1995,” Slug said during the show. Atmosphere is old, yes, but they’re far from drawn out. Slug begged us to listen to his “old shit” and played many of my personal favorites, including “The Waitress” as well as “Guns and Cigarettes.”
The lyrics of Atmosphere express such remarkable candidness (“Damn I should’ve been a better father to my daughter”) that even the most stone-cold crowd can empathize with the music. Yet Atmosphere fans find the joy in songs like “Yesterday”— despite a troubling subject of Slug’s poor relationship with his father.
Atmosphere thrives off the interactivity of an audience, which made the concert a significantly more enjoyable experience. There was so much love in the room on Thursday night that Slug even said he was “pretty sure that we impregnated” him.
The encore included a song supposedly about Eugene (“Shhh” is actually about loving your hometown) and a freestyle session with other MCs from the night, including one who had a verse about local track legend Steve Prefontaine.
To end the night, Slug said that they “almost sold this bitch out” and that he was going to go buy five more tickets so that it could be classified as such. His parting words were to encourage us to make something tonight: whether it was a painting, your bed or just some pancakes.