Before even taking the stage, Quinn XCII was charged, ready for the music parallel to a sports victory. The newfound prince of hip-hop-reggae-soul tweeted Thursday (February 22): “biggest show of my life so far is tonight let’s gooo”.
And so, the Detroit genre hybrid took the chance to electrify his sold-out show that night at The House of Blues.
While Quinn XCII isn’t a household name yet (so we’ll point out that the XCII stands for “92”), his Boston performance proved that he’s well on his way. He infiltrated Spotify playlists in 2017 with his bouncy banger “Straightjacket,” the “psycho from a Midwest suburb” song with breezy synths and a catchy melody. Quinn’s catalog doesn’t stretch far beyond the beachy hooks, but out of the thin hip hop and simple tunes emerges a sunny sound that melds genres and, frankly, yields solid bops.
Quinn XCII’s formula works, because it’s impossible to avoid dancing. Especially when he played to his strengths at House of Blues; come for the song you all know and love, stay for the contagiously danceable beats. The crowd was here for it, devouring every “Let’s get fucked up, Boston!” that Quinn shared through a thick grin.
Launching into his set with “Candle,” one of the four songs released earlier this year, confirmed Quinn’s mission: To flirt heavily with EDM and to have a damn good time doing it. And thankfully, his sound translates well to the boxy venue as he didn’t miss a beat sliding on momentum to “Walls” and briefly covering R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix).”
It’s hard to hate a dude who wears a seemingly thrifted NASCAR shirt, smiles unabashedly, and continuously thanks the crowd for “showing up.” Quinn was on cloud nine, breaking between songs to repeat how grateful he felt for the attendance at The House of Blues and “how much it meant” to him. For all of his candid lyrics about heartbreak tinged with bitterness and disappointment, he seemed fueled by something pure. He glowed, he beamed, and the crowd — college kids, mainly — fed the love back.
As the guy who wears his heart on his sleeve, Quinn XCII also took every chance to preach positivity. After “Don’t You,” he urged, “Go out and spend some love in the world. How about you leave here and be a good fucking person.” Maybe there’s something generational to say here, about millennials swallowing every inspirational pill that comes their way, but the reception of Quinn’s message appeared more genuine than that. He wasn’t there to intellectualize anything or spew political meanderings. His sincerity felt akin to Chance the Rapper’s; both Midwestern musicians with big hearts, gravelly voices, and a penchant for Motown influences.
Before launching into “Another Day in Paradise” (which he kindly decided to “slow down for the stoners”), Quinn concluded his spoken thesis for the night. He shared his own American Dream story about working in a cubicle at an insurance company while “Kings of Summer” took off, at one point reaching #1 in downloads. “If you have a dream, I urge you please go after it. The world needs more dreamers.”
If that’s not mid-winter candy for the ears of 20-somethings, what is?
At one point, he brought out Chelsea Cutler, his opener and fellow bleeding heart, for the encore beginning with “Flare Guns” and quickly ending with “Straightjacket” (but, of course). Whereas some audiences can deflate after shows, Quinn’s crowd was given tokens of satisfaction throughout, until he finally stated, “This is probably my favorite show I’ve ever done.”
For the dreamers in the crowd, Quinn XCII’s show may have initially been about the bops, but he brought sunshine and sweetness, too—sticky stuff that’ll stay around for a while as “Straightjacket” plays on repeat in our heads for the next week.
Photos by Hannah Weiner; follow her on Twitter @weiner_hannah.