Rostam: Air Max 95s, Counting Persians, and What Makes a Great Show

What makes a great show? Is there a rubric? 

Written & photographed by Meesh Deyden

Something special must be happening when a concert photographer wants to put down her camera and be fully present at a show. About 4 songs in to Vampire Weekend alum, producer extraordinaire, Discovery co-vocalist Rostam's set at Globe Hall, I found myself retiring my shutterbug perspective for a bask-in-the-glory-of-all-that-is-holy mode of showgoing. 

Rostam & his string quartet (photographed by Meesh Deyden)

Rostam & his string quartet (photographed by Meesh Deyden)

You can tell when a show is gonna be dope even before it starts-- there are indicators. Fans shout and cheer before the performer even takes stage. Greetings amongst attendees range from blissful silent nods to full on sparks of nascent friendship. The house is packed, and no one's too drunk or too sober. It's good vibes all around. Globe Hall had all that goin Friday night, and then came the string quartet. 

Rostam's touring band is composed of a bongoes-focused percussionist and a MF string quartet. So here we are post-opener Joy Again, and here comes a MF string quartet. Now, if you know Globe Hall, you know the venue feels an awful lot like a high school auditorium with its linoleum floor and collapsed faux-wood tables lined somewhere out of the way. Take that image, add four men with their violins ready, music stands positioned just so, and you've got what looks to be the start of the most handsome high school recital ever.

This, all before any music begins. 

Rostam backstage (photographed by Meesh Deyden)

Rostam backstage (photographed by Meesh Deyden)

Rostam first played the last song off his Half-Light album, a reprise of his hit "Don't Let It Get to You," followed directly by the album's first track, "Sumer," creating an extended crescendo reflective of his conductor-like approach to structuring his live performances. This approach was also evident when he expertly guided the audience in singing the beat for "Rudy." We weren't on time, so, being the producer/conductor he is, kindly advised us to start over and he'd "lead [us] back in."

Belting along seamlessly now, and almost as sweetly as Rostam's electro-modified vocals, fans bobbed and jived to the singer who seemed to smile with every lyric. 


Mid way through the set, Rostam, who is of Iranian heritage, posed a query for the snugly packed crowd, "How many Persians in the audience?" Denver, though white af, still boasted 1, with the dude exclaiming, "I'm the only one!" to a now giggling audience. Rostam, touring much of the mid-west recently, responded that "in Minneapolis there was one, but she was my cousin." And while this interaction may seem insignificant, lighthearted engagement between performer and audience about race & ethnicity in America in 2018 is pretty damn spectacular. 


Now if all this isn't already the makings of a good show, Rostam has to go and play his harmonica, repeatedly caress his mic stand, call for the lights to dim for a song that heralds "everyone of us has felt the lights go down," and bring an encore that showed us B side material (a cover of Nick Drake's 1971 Pink Moon) and a "brand fucking new song" that'll surely grace the charts with its lusty lyric "we are sweating with no clothes on."


So yea, I put down my camera. I noted his slick Air Max 95s, dutifully appreciated them like my editor in chief taught me, and I enjoyed the show. 

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