by DJ K
Picture this: It’s 10AM on November 5th, 12 hours before EARTHGANG is to take the stage at The Catalyst in downtown Santa Cruz to a ready and waiting mass of ecstatic fans. I’m sitting in my first lecture of the day typing notes on my laptop when I see a text notification from DJ Danlo on the top right of my screen.
Danlo: $30 after fees
I’m immediately sold. I close Google Drive and open up the Catalyst’s website to buy my ticket, texting my housemate, Claire, the exact same message that I received from Danlo just moments earlier. Unsurprisingly, Claire responds in an almost identical fashion, immediately buying her ticket at the exact same time as me. Fast forward to the evening as we eagerly rush into the venue, having also recruited Danlo’s housemate to join us in our spontaneous decision. Unfortunately, we missed the opening act but the audience was clearly pumped after the opener, Guapdad 4000, got the crowd hyped up and ready for Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot to take the stage.
Venus looking fly as the duo takes the stage
Formed in 2008, the hip hop duo has been continually rising in popularity. In 2013, their
debut album, “Shallow Graves for Toys,” was released and widely well-received (even praised)
by other rappers in the game. After another album release and a number of EP’s, EARTHGANG
released Mirrorland on September 6th, 2019 as their major label debut album under rapper J.
Cole’s Dreamville Records .
Signed in August of 2017, EARTHGANG’s contract with Dreamville Records has been
nothing but beneficial for the duo, allowing them to collaborate with other Dreamville artists
such as J.I.D., Ari Lennox, Bas, and others on 2019 collaborative album Revenge of the
Dreamers III , as well as tracks of their own. Venus and Doctur Doc even opened for Dreamville
artist Smino on his tour earlier this year, one of their stops being none other than Santa Cruz
back in May of this year. I personally had the opportunity to see them live at the concert, and at
the time, I hadn’t heard much of the group. Regardless, their energy and stage presence entranced me.
Following Smino’s tour with EARTHGANG as the opener, I was hooked on the duo and began roaming their Spotify page to hear their other tunes I had been missing out on. After the release of Mirrorland , it was clear that the duo was quickly rising in popularity, as they held their own tour as the main act.
Venus and Doctur Doc took the stage to a thrilled audience that immediately rushed closer to the stage. The space in the crowd was tight, with people trying to dance to in the small space they had for themselves. In normal situations, limited space like that would be uncomfortable, but the duo’s music and energy made people focus on them rather than the
positions they might be in. I have to give it to the group: their stage presence is like none other I’ve seen from
rappers at the Catalyst. Not only were they moving around the stage, jumping up and down and
encouraging the audience to do the same, but they were actively getting audience engagement by
bringing crowd members on the stage to dance, asking the audience questions, and doing
call-and-response chants to get the crowd yelling.
Doctur Dot living his best life
It had been years since my last experience with a mosh pit. I’m a sensitive boi with a bum
knee so I usually avoid situations that involve body slamming into sweaty strangers in a
pitch-black, smoky room. This night was an exception, to say the least. There was a point where
my bucket hat was yeeted right off my head, but I was so enraptured by the sheer adrenaline and joy
of the moment that, when Claire realized my head was bare and pointed out that my hat had
disappeared, I shouted, “It’s gone, RIP” and kept throwing my body into the sea of people.
Two songs later, I received a timid tap on my shoulder during a brief intermission in the
performance. I turned around to a person who proceeded to lean into my ear and ask, “Is this
yours?” while handing me back my hat. Obviously elated, I embraced the complete stranger and
continued my night.
Fast forward a few songs and the boys made their exit to waves of cheers, applause, and
demands for an encore. After a few seconds of the audience screaming for one more song, Venus
and Doctur Dot returned to the spotlight to play one of their most recent hits from Mirrorland:
UP. We’d been waiting for this moment, the next three and a half minutes acting as an uproarious
conclusion to one of the most euphoric nights that I’ve experienced in a while.