The still ambience outside of The Basement on Saturday night was a fitting setup for a concert billing Maggie Rogers: a humble college-aged musician whose rise to fame in the summer of 2016 is linked to an emotional classroom encounter with artistic influencer Pharrell Williams.
The aura surrounding Rogers’ Saturday night set was ceremonious. On top of that, the Basement concerts are some of Columbus’ most intimate, which added to the eccentricity of a first live glimpse at bubbling talent just waiting to burst.
A few hundred eager ears packed around the stage shrouded by shiny metallic drapes. It was difficult to pinpoint a demographic amongst the audience because Rogers’ music does not have a specific aesthetic like the punk or hip-hop scenes.
Her music does, however, attract fans with an ear for soul-bearing tales and raw emotion. Her songs bare subjective stories that tell relatable life lessons applicable for the young and old, female and male.
Rogers appeared from the backstage door around 9 p.m., backed by a guitarist and drummer who provided the resonating background for her cathartic vocals. Rogers moved about the stage, dancing between the colorful strobe lights while beautifully crooning to the crowd.
A few songs into her set, Rogers channeled the serenity of 80s pop with one of her three best-known songs, “Dog Years.” The track, one of her longer cuts, echoed through the back of the venue, making it feel like an intimate basement party.
Aside from her angelic voice, Rogers displayed her musical range midway through her set when she strapped on a guitar. Before strumming into the song “#,” she described the passion she felt in while in London during the United States’ presidential election night and put it into the song.
The multi-faceted artist even further expanded upon her repertoire with an electronic drum pad positioned next to her microphone. Before launching into her most recent and explosive track to date, the 808-heavy “On + Off,” Rogers teased the driving beat with the drum machine.
When the song came to fruition, the room transformed into a dancefloor. Rogers seemed every bit grateful that the crowd sang along to every word of a song that she released less than a week ago. Songs like “On + Off” show off the crossover appeal that she first put on display to Pharrell while she was still a college student.
The song that put Rogers on the map is “Alaska.” It is one of the few songs that, upon first listen, elicits a rush of nostalgia, an emotion usually embedded with past personal memories. But longing for the past after listening to the transportive track is a testament to how Rogers can convey her emotions through song.
At times, “Alaska” makes me forget where I am. It is a tranquil adventure, an unknown plunge off the side of a cliff into a calming oceanside. It is, in Rogers’ words, a song about finding yourself after being lost, produced from the sounds of nature she encountered while exploring the plains of Alaska.
The night was peaceful, but not as captivating as the pull Rogers had on the audience Saturday night. When her eyes met the crowd’s, there seemed to be genuine connection in the air. The pull she had is what it feels like to communicate with an extraordinary talent before it is known by the entire world.
It is hard to tell what the future of Maggie Rogers’ shows will look like, but intimate nights like Saturday from a voice so fresh, so pure do not come by regularly.