by Chloe Catajan
Conan Gray's got a lot going on. When he's not making videos for his nine hundred sixty-one thousand YouTube subscribers (and counting) or attending class at UCLA, he's dreaming up lush bedroom pop nostalgic for his hometown and late nights with friends.
Now those dreams are quickly becoming reality for the Texas-based artist. In the last month, Gray made his major record label debut, released two music videos for two new singles, announced debut EP Sunset Season and embarked on his first tour ever. He brought the tour to the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco Wednesday night.
An audio montage of Gray relishing his recent musical achievements led the singer-guitarist and his band onstage. He opened with "The Other Side," a soft and whimsical track about the hazy transition into young adulthood. For longtime fans, the cut likely struck a chord immediately as it often closes out Gray's YouTube videos.
"I'm so excited to be playing in this beautiful place!" Gray said, beaming at the sold-out venue.
Setting his guitar down, Gray kicked into "Crush Culture" next—one of his two new singles. A jab at modern social media-crazed romance, the bop brought the crowd to a thunderous sing-along. Gray followed with his other latest release, "Generation Why."
"My hometown is known for its population of old people. Growing up, they would always tell me and my friends how selfish young people are," he said when introducing the youthful anthem.
Gray alternated between parading across the stage for bouncy cuts like "Grow" and strumming his guitar for mellower ones, such as "I Know A Place" and "Lovesick Boys." Twice throughout the night, fans handed the singer-songwriter a bouquet of flowers, which Gray danced with for the rest of the song.
Near the end of his set, Gray performed two "secret" unreleased songs: "Greek God" and "Lookalike."
"This song is about someone you loved once and can't fully get over—someone you look for in everyone else," he said to introduce the former.
Gray wound the night down with "Idle Town," a dreamy vignette about making the most of life in a small town.
California natives Madi Sipes & The Painted Blue preceded with a set of steamy indie soul. The Sacramento trio started with "Blue," a slow-burner for the heavy-hearted. One note from Sipes's velvety voice seemed to immediately captivate the crowd, as all eyes stayed on the band from the get-go. The group further spiced things up with "Lullaby" and "Unrequited," both of which intensified in beat.
"Has anyone ever loved someone who didn't love them back?" Sipes called out before the latter track. Met with cheers of solidarity, she continued, "I guess we've all been in that place."
Madi Sipes & The Painted Blue turned up the sass for "Blue Jean Baby," an evident fan favorite, and brought out a sultry cover of The Beatles' "I Want You (She's So Heavy)." The group also performed a new eighties-inspired cut, "For Your Eyes Only." Fully indulging in that era's signature elements, the track came equipped with retro synths and whispers of the titular lyric.
Keeping the mood steamy, Madi Sipes & The Painted Blue closed with the appropriately titled "Sex & Sadness."
(Photos: Chloe Catajan)