Gus Dapperton shines in luminous livestream

Gus Dapperton is sitting on a stool with black pants and a white tank top, with hair dyed orange-red and a somber expression on his face.
Gus Dapperton’s sophomore album “Orca,” a follow-up to his 2019 debut release “Where The Polly People Go,” melds the artist’s sonic development with reflective and candid lyricism. (Photo courtesy of Jess Farran)

In the age of a pandemic, many artists are left to find innovative methods that deliver quality performances to fans. Striking the perfect balance with virtual performances is a difficult task, but Gus Dapperton made a strong attempt this last Friday.

On Sept. 25, the bedroom-pop artist performed a virtual one-hour set in collaboration with ZeroSpace, an immersive art theatre located in Midtown Manhattan. According to their website, ZeroSpace is a “25,000 sqft immersive art playground showcasing a collection of large-scale installations from the world’s leading new-media artists.”

The experimental playground elevated the performance by hosting the psychedelic visuals that completed the show ambience Dapperton was going for. Maneuvering from the main stage to the other installations made for lively and animated sets that kept the at-home audience engaged.

Donning an outfit signature to Dapperton’s style, the New York artist started the set off with a melody of “Verdigris” and “Coax & Botany,” a bass-heavy, playful mixture of elements which let the at-home audience know what to expect with the set to come.

As Dapperton danced on the shimmery, iridescent dance floor the audience followed him and his energetic high-kicks to each new location. Dapperton’s colorful persona channeled a captivating artistic presence.

The set consisted of 14 songs, including early singles, “Moodna, Once with Grace” and “Ditch.” And since being released, Dapperton’s latest singles also made their highly anticipated live debuts.

While at times the performance reached a plateau, the energy seemed to pick up with crowd favorites scattered throughout the set. Announcing the viral 2017 single “Prune, You Talk Funny” to the at-home audience, Dapperton deemed it a dance song.

“Feel free to dance, if you would like to,” Dapperton said. “We will also be dancing here on stage.”

During these involved sections, the energy of the band shined and the excitement was felt across the screen. The ensemble helped maintain the foundation, allowing Dapperton the freedom to add his own flair to the songs.

Throughout the set, a live chat box feature hosted fans rapid fire comments on the performance, fostering a sense of community that’s been lacking through these unprecedented times.

Midway through the set, before the start of “I’m Just Snacking,” Dapperton is in a new location, engulfed in an incandescent purple hue as a reflective pendant for projections to bounce off of. The variety of camera shots and visual transitions create a dimensional perspective for the viewer.

As the set began to wind down, the focus of the camera was directed solely toward Dapperton and his acoustic guitar. The zeroed-in attention to the artist shifted the focus on the extravagant production, and asked viewers to reflect during the final moments of the set, which paired well with the sincerity of the final songs.

The most recent “Bluebird” single was matched with impressive red visuals that featured the off-beat typography of this album cycle. Followed by “First Aid,” the sophisticated songwriting came across with the slowed pace.

Closing the set was the second single of this album cycle, “Post Humorous,” which was the showstopper. The rough, gritty vocal deliver from Dapperton paired well with the cutting lyrics such as, “And if I was the only thing you couldn’t bear to lose / I’d set fire to the wood just so you wouldn’t have to bury me too.”

Recent sophomore album “Orca” follows Dapperton’s 2019 debut project, “Where The Polly People Go.” Filled with honest and reflective lyrics, the 10-track project is an elevated development from the artist. In contrast with previous projects, the new work leaves behind the dreamy synths and opts for raw sounds.

“This album represents everyone and everything’s ability to hurt,” Dapperton writes in an explanatory Instagram post on Sept. 20. “Its contents represent everyone and everything’s ability to heal. And its journey represents everyone and everything’s ability to help.”In the latter half of the virtual livestream, the brutal honesty of Dapperton’s recent project came across. Reckoning with feelings of instability and entrapment makes its central themes topical now more than ever.

The self-expression in “Orca” provides a sense of comfort for the tired individual to enfold themselves in, even if it means doing so from across a screen.