by Sara Conway ’21 A&E Co-Editor
As New Yorkers walked past the Public Hotel on Chrystie Street in Nolita, they were greeted by a line that stretched down the block. Those especially curious paused to ask someone in line, “What is this for?”
Those who stopped learned that indie-pop musician Conan Gray was playing a private show at the hotel.
In order to see the performance, names were randomly drawn in a lottery system. Fans had the opportunity to enter for a spot out of 200 for the Los Angeles show or out of 100 for the New York City show.
The lucky winners of the New York show experienced the best of Conan Gray; the artist performed his entire discography, from “Idle Town”—the song that gained Gray international attention—to “Comfort Crowd,” his most recent release. Gray admitted that this performance marked only his second time playing his newest single since its release on Sept. 5. He introduced “Comfort Crowd” by saying that he wrote it this past summer when he was lonely and missing his best friend.
The rest of the concert included Gray’s first official single, “Generation Why” and the popular song “Crush Culture” from his first EP, Sunset Season, released under Republic Records. Gray played his two other singles from 2019, “The King” and “Checkmate” as well.
From the moment Gray stepped on stage, his energy filled the performance space, which was packed with fans singing along to every word. The close relationship between artist and fans was seen when Gray read a note from a fan out loud that said, “You are our ‘Comfort Crowd,’” and gave that person a hug, causing a series of awws to erupt from the rest of the audience.
Gray achieved YouTube stardom with his song “Idle Town.” Created on GarageBand, the song was inspired by Georgetown, the quiet town in Texas Gray grew up in. However, he had been posting on his YouTube since he was very young because he was a “nostalgic kid” who was always filming, according to a Billboard interview. Gray started writing songs when he was 12 years old.
When asked about his songwriting by the Recording Academy, Gray thoughtfully noted that for him, “the best way to be good at songwriting is to just tell the truth.” He later added that his “goal always is just to be as honest as [he] possibly can.” His honesty and relatability prevail in his music, as Gray writes of loneliness in “Comfort Crowd,” being single while constantly surrounded by the pressure to be in a relationship in “Crush Culture,” and the generation who feels the heaviness of living in “Generation Why.”
Gray’s private concerts are to be followed by his Comfort Crowd Tour around the United States, launching on Oct. 29 in St. Louis, Missouri. His tour will continue up until the new year, ending on Dec. 12 in Los Angeles, California.