I was sitting cross-legged on the carpeted floor of my old “Introduction to Cultural Anthropology” (ANTH101) classroom in Russell House, listening to Superfan perform on Saturday, Sept. 23 at 9:15 p.m. It looked different bathed in blue light, covered with wires, and filled with speakers. That night, instead of a professor lecturing at the front of a class, the focal point was a boy and his guitar singing to a full audience.
Kali Flannigan, stage name Superfan, is an indie rock artist from Los Angeles whose music is defined by its openhearted lyricism. Although he is just 17 years old, he has been releasing EPs and singles since the spring of 2021 and is currently working on his first full album. Superfan is recognizable by his fuzzed-out guitar lines and strong vocals, which combine to create a dreamy, electronic sound. However, hearing the music live was an entirely different experience to listening to him on Spotify. It was almost unrecognizable; instead of the electronic, riff-laden songs I knew, Superfan presented stripped-down arrangements focusing on vocals, lyrics, and the power of an acoustic guitar.
Since he was primarily playing songs from his new album, the audience couldn’t sing along to the lyrics, and instead were left to listen attentively. Without the backing of an electric guitar, his lyrics felt even more raw.
“You know I’d wait / I’d wait ’til my body breaks,” Flannigan sang. “But I can’t keep throwing my feelings away/ ’Cause it hurts; it has to end someday.”
The performance was closer to an open mic performance, icebreaker circle, or venting session than a performance from an artist with 200k listeners on Spotify, which speaks to the intimate setting of the concert.
“It feels like I’m playing in someone’s living room,” Flannigan said to the audience.
Russell House—a white-columned, Greek revival building with an actual parlor and marble fireplace—feels like anything but a concert venue. The “stage” was just an extension of a carpet blocked off by speakers and wires. But what felt most personal about the space was the single stool, guitar, and voice that the audience were invited to fixate on. Superfan sat framed between two large bay windows with a Trompe-l’œil painting and a chandelier above him.
The confessional lyrics and the acoustic arrangement of the show made the house into a place where secrets and desires could be shared between the audience and artist. The intimate setting also broke down the barrier between entertainer and entertained, making us feel more like friends sitting together.
This budding indie rockstar sang to a crowd sitting cross-legged like kindergarteners. In a room of about 50 people, Superfan confessed that it was more nerve-wracking to play than a ten-thousand person arena.
Perhaps it’s the closer connection, or having to face the people with whom you’ve just shared your most personal thoughts. Either way, we were so close to Superfan that even a performance became an intimate exchange. Despite the strangeness of the space, the wildly different arrangement of his songs, and the pain of pins and needles that follows sitting criss-cross applesauce, this was one of my favorite shows ever.
Superfan finished the set with his song “Flem,” leaving us with lyrics that captured the sadness of the performance finally ending.
“I’m hoping that you’ll miss me / The second you leave,” Flannigan sang.
I would sit on the dingy floor of a Greek revival any day if it meant that every show felt like this one.
Mia Foster can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.