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Epik High Spends A Sleepless Night in Boston

Epik High
Epik High performs at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston April 9.

Smoke rose amid blue lights in the Paradise Rock Club on April 9, flooding the backlit stage with a surreal, oceanic vibe. As the lights darkened, accompanied by the house band’s classical soundtrack, DJ Tukutz of Epik High sauntered onstage. Tukutz cued a slow piano instrumental which crescendoed into a smooth, jazzy beat, and in a heavenly descent amidst streams of white light, rappers Tablo and Mithra Jin joined suit, completing the trio. With all three members shining onstage, Epik High began the night with a sentimental performance of “In Seoul.” As the first song drew to a close, orange and red lights filled the club, signaling the rise of a percussive, up-tempo frenzy, as Tablo and Mithra Jin used their plastic water bottles to splash their fans.

Epik High filled the Paradise Rock Club with mellow and spunky energy, exhibiting a truly “epik” team chemistry. As part of their 2019 North American tour, the trio’s performance featured hit songs from their 2nd EP, “Sleepless in __________,” released in March. The eclectic performance also included several fan-favorite hits including “High Technology,” “Love Love Love,” and “Kill This Love.” Combined with his smooth yet incisive style of rapping, Tablo’s intricate lyrical content and trendy flow superbly complemented Mithra Jin’s deep, huskier undertones, while Tukutz spun around and DJ-ed with ease. Epic High’s charming stage mannerisms and comedic interactions with the audience, coupled with strong doses of fan service, added to the variety of the performance.

Humming out his creative process, Tablo performed an acapella version of “Lovedrunk.” An ensuing full instrumental version, underscored by melancholic piano and strings, coalesced the complicated themes of heartbreak, insomnia, and the alluring comfort of alcohol. Tablo’s smooth falsetto bridge, followed by Jin’s hard, low-toned rap, bestowed atmospheric resonance on the room.

Nostalgia adorned the rest of the performance. In the heart-wrenching song “Eternal Sunshine,” Tablo softly spoke, “Do you get lonely? Sick with anxiety? Can't trust nobody? Well, same here.” Encircled by purple and navy lights, Epik High produced a thick R&B soundscape, which sunk the room in a kind of purifying profundity. For the next song, Tablo encouraged all the audience members to take out their cell-phone flashlights and turn the whole room into a constellation of stars. As the mass of sparkling lights drifted in the sea of darkness, swaying from side to side, Epik High performed their somber single “Home Is Far Away.” Though the song told a story of unfillable dreams, Epik High offered comfort and understanding. “You’re not alone. It’s going to be okay,” Tablo said to the crowd.

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Epik High interspersed the heat and intensity of their performances with with sparks of comedic relief. Tablo’s playful banter provided a circus-like element to the show. Tablo poked fun at Tukutz’s white Harvard sweatshirt, quipping that he should take over as a professor of DJ-ing. “He bought that for 60 dollars today. I don’t get it,” Tablo said. To Mithra Jin’s heartfelt comments in Korean about how he much he loved this first visit to Boston, Tablo offered goofy English translations and handed him a plush lobster keychain. Addressing the densely packed crowd, Tablo said with a smile, “It’s a Seoul-ed out show tonight!” The trio then attempted a very disorienting K-pop dance, their unbridled enthusiasm and gleeful personas piercing through the choreographic challenges.

The dynamic concert proved to embody Epik High’s paraconsistent philosophy of “sad fun” hip-hop, showcasing a strange melange of highs and the lows. They touched on sleepless nights driven by the pursuit of dreams and the fluttery excitement of newfound love, but also its nightmarish gravitas. Circling around all dimensions of the mellow and spunky, this evening with Epik High inspired tears, laughter, and healing.

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