By Jacqueline Jedrych
Robbie Skinner, professionally known as Cavetown, played at the 9:30 Club, a D.C. classic, on Monday, November 4th. This venue has played host to thousands of other artists whose performances featured screaming or stage diving, but Cavetown’s show was different, delivering a performance that charmed the crowd.
Before Cavetown, the first artist to take the stage was Austin Thomas, professionally known as spookyghostboy. Thomas is a guitarist and singer from Nashville and, as well as being an opener for Cavetown, he played guitar alongside him for this tour. spookyghostboy lived up to his name, singing gentle ballads about goblins and ghouls.
The following opener was Kevin Patrick Sullivan, known as Field Medic. His lo-fi folk style is played with just a harmonica, guitar, and boombox–certainly matched the country look of his mullet and conductor pants. The crowd appreciated his jokes and down-to-earth lyrics.
Robbie Skinner began playing acoustic guitar at the age of eight, under the instruction of his father David Skinner, a professional flautist and director of music at Cambridge University. His musical talent was nurtured at home not only by his father, but also by his mother who was a professional Baroque flautist as well as a music teacher. Skinner began uploading videos to YouTube in 2013, concurrently starting a Bandcamp where he began recording, producing, and releasing music at the age of 14. Now at 20, he has released three albums, an EP and a number of singles, gone on tours in the UK, US, and Australia, and amassed over 1 million YouTube subscribers. Skinner is known for his easy-going ‘bedroom pop’ music, indie ukulele melodies, and soft persona.
Cavetown’s set was illuminated by colorful strobe lights that pulsated along with the music. The black scrim behind the musicians was dotted with color-changing lights, mimicking twinkling stars for some songs, and whimsical polka dots for others.
Although there were raucous cheers after each song, they quickly turned into soft, contented smiles. The set began with “Hug All Your Friends”, released on the mixtape Animal Kingdom: Jackson. As the song settled in the air, many audience members turned to hug their companions, earning a grin from Skinner. Throughout the show, he made sure the audience felt okay, encouraging fans to rest their legs if they had been standing for a long time and to get water if they needed it.
Cavetown released a new single, “Things That Make It Warm”, four days before the show. In addition to this new song, he played two unreleased songs, which will most likely be released on an upcoming album. He also played a cover of Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”, which he prefaced as being, in his opinion, “the greatest song of all time.’
Cavetown’s music focuses mainly on displaying emotion and intimacy. Some songs, such as “Feb 14”, “Green”, or “Fool”, deal with unrequited or lost love. “Talk To Me”, “Juliet”, and “Just Add Water” encourage the practice of self-care and self-love. Even in his most boisterous and goofy songs, “Boys Will Be Bugs” and “Lemon Boy”, the lyrics encourage being in nature, listening to your parents’ advice, and being open to other perspectives. Cavetown’s music resonates strongly with his fans, touching on important themes such as isolation and mental health.
The final song of the set was one of his most popular, “Boys Will Be Bugs”, which was released on Animal Kingdom: Comet. Before he began, Skinner asked the audience to jump and dance for this song. As the song started, red lights shone on and shimmered behind him. At the penultimate chorus, the lights began strobing around the audience and bubbles streamed into the crowd. Fans yelled the words along with him. The set was over after the hype of the last song but he returned after chanting from the audience for an encore with a contrastingly gentle ukulele ballad, ‘Fool’.
Cavetown’s show succeeded at bringing much of the audience to tears with his gentle, wholesome demeanor and music. Skinner delivered nothing less than an absolutely phenomenal show, packed full of both excitement and intimacy.