Show Recap: Noah Kahan - Local Wolves


Noah Kahan — Mission Ballroom in Denver, CO — February 18, 2023

I arrive to Mission Ballroom an hour and a half before doors open, wondering if there will be a few people already waiting. Instead I’m met with about a hundred and fifty people in various states of camping out, some bundled in blankets and others perched on lawn chairs. Almost everyone is in a Noah Kahan shirt. I ask two girls how long they’ve been here, and they tell me “Since 1pm!” They are filled with boundless excitement, as if the process of waiting for the show is as much a part of the experience as the set. That seems to be the mark that sets apart having fans from having a fandom. I ask another group what song they’re most excited to hear, and I’m met with a loud round of “EVERYWHERE, EVERYTHING, I WANNA LOVE YOU TILL WE’RE FOOD FOR THE WORMS TO EAT, TILL MY FINGERS DECOMPOOOSE!”

The house fills out quickly. It’s impressive to find a venue nearing full capacity before the opener is set to go on, and even more impressive to do it two nights in a row in the same city. I’m near the barricade with the most dedicated of the crowd, and they’re chatting animatedly about last night’s show and a show from this tour they saw in another city, and a show that they saw four years ago. It might seem from the TikTok world that Noah Kahan’s rise was instantaneous brought about by his massive hit single, “Stick Season” but Kahan has been putting steady work releasing music on Spotify since 2017, work that you can feel in his live performance. He is calm and steady, but radiates goofiness. He seems at once shocked and quietly confident in the face of nearly 4,000 people singing his words back to him for what will be the last time on a 15 show tour of sold out rooms and venue upgrades. 

Kahan’s music, particularly his recent album Stick Season, has caught fire for good reason. His melodies are instant ear-worms, catchy and familiar but fresh. He’s not reinventing the wheel: he’s just doing it better. His lyrics are painfully honest, simultaneously a punch in the gut and a salve for the wound. Kahan can jump from eliciting a laugh to heartbreak in the span of one line: “So I forgot my medication, fell into a manic high/Spent my savings at a Lulu, now I’m sufferin’ in style/Why is pain so damn impatient, ain’t like its got a place to be/Keeps rushin’ me” off of “Growing Sideways.” Listening to this album is to be torn apart and rebuilt all at once, and experiencing it in a room of people screaming along is pure catharsis. It’s why we crave live music, emblematic of everything COVID threatens to take away. 

Kahan is set to tour again this summer and fall from May through September, this time around at venues like Burlington’s Waterfront Park and LA’s Greek Theatre. There will be not one but two shows at Radio City Music Hall, and various other dates have already received venue upgrades. It’s unclear what exactly the future will hold for Kahan, and it’s far from the beginning of his journey, but it is certain that he has carved out his spot in the pantheon of, as he puts it on stage, “sad men with greasy hair and an acoustic guitar.” 

Words & Photography: Lee Dubin

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