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Live Review: Mk.gee @ Howard Theatre — 5/11/24

By now you probably know the story. Dijon and Omar Apollo collaborator. USC Thornton School of Music dropout. ’80s pop-rock regen and guitar god Mk.gee has been selling out shows following the release of his trendsetting record Two Star & the Dream Police.

You’ve probably seen the videos of crowds belting out the searching words of “Alesis,” a song that serves as an anthem for an album that explores escapism, desperation, and conflict:

“Why me? Or better, why you?
When we can fake it like any way we want to
Why bleed when we don’t have to?
Yeah, just shut your mouth, I only really want you.”

This chorus has captured the torn hearts and spirits of Gen-Z’ers who are experiencing the pangs of heartbreak or substance use for the first time, and Mike’s style has captured their imaginations.

Watch Mk.gee perform “Alesis” live in London via YouTube:

At the Howard Theatre on May 11, college and high school students rocking Mike’s look — signature trucker hat, shaggy bang, and baggy jeans — made the line that wrapped around the venue ahead of the doors opening. Without an opener to fill the space, that crowd waited and whispered for an hour above the stylings of the Howard Theatre DJ.

Mk.gee and crew’s tour bus broke down on the way to DC, and most in attendance were grateful he made it all together. As Mk.gee romped on stage, he removed his patented black trucker hat, a move that elicited a “he took his hat off!” from me: An observation that amused a few of my concert neighbors.

As the music might suggest, Mike comes off as reserved, even shy, in most live appearances. In his late-night debut earlier this year, he shrunk into an oversized hoodie and kept his eyes low amongst their set’s typical heavy backlighting. Yet, he engaged the eager DC crowd quickly, blasting riffs from his signature Fender.

The show flowed quickly, even as he extended some songs off Two Star to fill the space. Sometimes I wish those spaces were not filled with only ambient transitions but more of Mk.gee’s firing guitar solos or surprisingly polished voice, two elements of his performance that would flash their brilliance for moments that felt all too short. One of those moments was a new tune, “Lonely Fight,” which explores more of Mike’s R&B influences, a direction that I think many fans would be happy to see him take the music.

Easily my favorite part of Mk.gee’s rollout for the new album has been the stripped back versions of Two Star songs that he’s delivered live from the back of a moving pickup. I get the feeling that Mk.gee’s unmistakable guitar tone will play a major role in wherever he takes his future music, but I’m excited to hear his voice develop into a unique instrument as well. He understands his audience and how to capture it with both style and ease.

The Howard Theatre show was another example of this and proof that Mk.gee will sell out shows for years to come.

Catch Mk.gee live on tour near you!