During his first headlining tour the night of Nov. 8, Richard McLaughlin, professionally known as HAARPER, transformed San Francisco’s Brick & Mortar Music Hall into a frenzied mosh in commemoration of his hometown, where the most passionate fans surely lost their voices, if not narrowly escaped losing a limb.
Since the start of McLaughlin’s musical career on SoundCloud and the release of his first EP in 2018, Lapidus, the San Francisco-based rapper has adroitly blended influences from several hip-hop subgenres, including phonk and trap music, both of which are known for their heavy and hard-hitting beats, hypnotic vintage samples, dark atmosphere and explicit themes. Despite deriving inspiration from other genres, McLaughlin’s craft is entirely its own, his experimental lyricism and electronic cadence thrumming with originality and verve.
The night began with McLaughlin’s openers — Scott Gonzales, known as Sinizter, and Kalem Tarrant, known as SXMPRA — both of whom exhilarated listeners with their fierce beckons for audience participation of the most raucous nature. The crowd was instantly hooked, whether through Gonzales’ appreciation for heavy metal influences, elevated through his piercing, growled vocals and electric guitar instrumentals, or Tarrant’s rapid verse and explosive beat drops.
By riling up the fans, Gonzales and Tarrant opened the floor to a steadily growing mosh pit, where crowd members oscillated between repeated jumping motions, sprinting in circles and intentionally colliding into one another. Less hardcore fans enjoyed the show at the pit’s edges, watching the pandemonium ensue as the cozy venue cast in a dim neon haze transformed into a sweaty, ecstatic jumble of flailing limbs and flashing lights.
Not missing a beat between Tarrant’s performance and his own, McLaughlin and his DJ accompaniment materialized on stage, followed by thunderous applause as the entire audience pressed closer to the stage, delighted by his sudden appearance and enthusiastic bellows. “What the fuck is up, San Francisco?” McLaughlin called out, clad in his signature black beanie and an oversized gray t-shirt.
Gripping the microphone and pacing the stage with confident nonchalance, McLaughlin began with one of his most popular tracks, “GOJIRA,” where a ferocious call and response accompanied themes of rage, rebellion and violently confronting enemies. “When I say weak ass, you say bitch!” McLaughlin thundered, igniting an uproarious and consistent audience reply.
As the evening progressed, McLaughlin facilitated the mosh pit as it reached its rowdy climax. During “BUNGEE GUM,” fans moshed to a colorful display of flashing lights and a booming bass, which reverberated throughout the entire concert hall and caused everything to vibrate. “BEAM TO YA HEAD” elicited even more intense involvement in the mosh pit, with fans clearly thrilled by the performance of the debut single, released on Sept. 29.
Regardless of McLaughlin’s consistency in instrumentals and overall musical themes, his experimental approach to lyrics and messing with tempo and beat, alongside his crowd engagement, allowed each song to present the audience with something surprising. In his performance of “Archon,” spectators threw up their middle fingers in defiance, per McLaughlin’s request, as he punctuated the number by yelling “Fuck you” intermittently into the distance.
McLaughlin concluded with the night’s encore, “NOTHING IS FOREVER.” Joined by Gonzales and Tarrant in the song’s latter half, the trio rapped the chorus in unison and finished by reflecting on their experiences on tour, expressing their gratitude for having the opportunity to perform together.
In a crescendo of pulsating beats, electrifying energy and unbridled passion, McLaughlin left an indelible mark on his hometown as the Brick & Mortar Music Hall was transformed into a moshing haven. In this euphoric collision of beats and emotions, HAARPER’s homecoming was truly unforgettable, leaving concertgoers with ringing ears and a night of much-needed rest to look forward to.