Although his lyrics may sometimes skew towards violent imagery, don’t be fooled—Lushlife is a teddy bear. His energy onstage is approachable and familiar, like a kid you went to high school with (or someone who might volunteer at a library). “I feel like I’m in a coffee shop,” he told his audience at Glasslands in New York on April 18, cracking open a PC.
Alone onstage, Lushlife (AKA Raj Haldar) manned the controls as a DJ, emcee and drum pad beatmaker. At one moment he might be down at one end of the stage, rapping into a mic and tapping out drum and synth pad rhythms and melodies, but at the next moment he’d be at the opposite end, gathering his flock with a mic in hand and breathlessly spitting over Flying Lotus’s “Zodiac Shit.” When he wasn’t busy producing his own beats, Lushlife busied himself by throwing mind and body into his verses, which he spat over a variety of samples including Clams Casino and Jay-Z’s “Dead Presidents.”
Fresh from the release of his newest album, Plateau Vision—years in the making, he told the crowd—Lushlife was eager to show off the fruits of his labor. He blasted through “The Romance of the Telescope” and ended his set with a body-thrashing, no-holds-barred performance of the LP’s opening track “Magnolia.” But he also made sure to please old fans and friends in the crowd with tunes from the past, like “Meridian Tempo.”
The coffeeshop-like intimacy of Lushlife’s set was a great asset, as much of the audience did seem to go way back with Raj and/or love him fiercely. Standing on the edge of the stage with his arms up over his flock, Lushlife appeared to be swapping energy with his fans, feeding off of their enthusiasm and reflecting it back into the crowd. When he came back onstage for an encore, for a second he looked shy but thrilled, happy but not surprised to find his fans had stuck around to hear him throw down another few verses. “I’m fucking touched to be here with you all,” he told them, unhinging the mic from the stand. And, when he hopped off the stage after his set to greet fans who yanked him aside for pictures or a chat, it was clear the feeling was mutual.