For an outdoor concert rapper Noname received perhaps the worst opener an artist could wish for: a 14-hour downpour.
Hard landing in Denmark
Roskilde Festival 2017, previously unscathed by the elements, fell victim to Denmark’s merciless meteorology late on Wednesday evening when a rainstorm descended upon the festival grounds. Come Thursday morning, cloud-filtered sunlight revealed a battered morass more reminiscent of the Western Front.
Under such conditions was Noname to open the Apollo stage at 2 pm on Thursday, as belching loader tractors spread heaps of wood chips to combat the mud. An unceasing drizzle battered the audience – a surprising turnout of some 300 multicoloured rain slickers standing unmoving in the harsh shower.
Noname’s energy meets Roskilde’s rain
Fatimah Warner, now 25 and performing as Noname, has been rapping and creating poetry since the age of 18. Her debut mixtape Telefone received immediate and widespread approval when it released in the summer of 2016, and her career has been climbing since: appearances on tracks with artists like Chance the Rapper, Mick Jenkins and Saba; a performance on Saturday Night Live; a worldwide tour. Her style is a thoughtful blend of introspective lyricism and buoyant rhythm – a sound capable both of captivating party-seeking audiences and addressing the social challenges of adolescence in inner-city Chicago.
It was these anthems of optimism that cut the rain-laden air on Thursday afternoon, with Noname’s undeniable brightness running in stark contrast to the surrounding gloom. Noname opened with ‘Sunny Duet’, a summertime warmer that boomed over a collection of audience members whose weather-soured faces might have seemed native at the Somme.
From the beginning, Noname was fighting an uphill battle – performing outside of her home country, without the advantage of a shared native tongue and widespread recognition, performing to a group of people who woke up an hour earlier hungover in wet sleeping bags.
In two words: Damp, short
Noname cycled through the majority of her debut mixtape ‘Telefone’, but in front of weakened troop morale it was a performance ever-deteriorating. Invitations to the audience for call and response lyrics yielded only weak mutters and unfamiliar humming, while dancing was sparse for fear of slipping in the growing swamp. Noname was visibly and understandably discouraged by the non-reciprocal energy, but quickly bounced back to general optimism with giggles and expressions of gratitude. Perhaps not quite aware of the venue’s location, her repeated call of “thank you, Copenhagen” seemed to stir mild grumbles among the geographically-minded.
Ailing audience responsiveness increased as time passed and rainfall worsened. Only slow-tempo tracks like ‘Casket Pretty’ or repeated, beleaguered attempts to stir the audience found any resonance, and Noname drew the show to a close after only 35 minutes – the precise length of her debut mixtape.
It’s hard to fault Noname for what was, in sum, an underwhelming performance. Through dozens of shows both local and international, she has proved herself an adept artist and a peerless performer, stirring emotion and inspiring unity when the situation allows. Unfortunately, nobody gets dealt an ace every hand. For Noname, today’s appearance represents an admirable attempt to make the best of a situation, but ultimately one best left out of the highlight reel.