On Tuesday, November 7th, the 9:30 Club stage was yet again graced by Dope Lemon. Returning for the second year in a row, Angus Stone and crew reentered the DC scene as part of a North American tour, promoting their latest album release Kimosabè. Surprisingly, though, there was minimal featuring of the new album; the title track, which is also the record’s most popular tune, was not included in the setlist. The Australian band performed a range of alternative pop tracks as Stone’s relaxed yet witty person shone through. Frankie Jonas, a.k.a. the greatest Jonas brother, was the opener and this new artist did not disappoint. The unexpected combination of musicians added to the general chaos of the show, which was full of men fainting and couples canoodling.
Dope Lemon is a brain child of the artist Angus Stone. This singer-songwriter turned producer only recently revealed his identity in relation to the project Dope Lemon. His previous work includes four studio albums, which were created with his sister Julia Stone, that include bangers such as 2010’s “Big Jet Plane” and the more recent “Chateau” in 2017. Stone had a band to back his performance: a bassist, guitarist, and a drummer. The four men donned matching maroon suits topped off with funky hats. After a few numbers, a fifth man appeared in this same uniform. The fifth character could only be described as, dare I say, a “hype man.” This final band member jeered at the crowd and filmed both the audience and the band with his iPhone, only contributing to the madness of the show as he appeared intermittently for the remainder of the concert.
Accompanied by a cloud of red smoke, the audience awaited Dope Lemon’s re-emergence into the DC landscape. Stone burst onto the scene with “Stonecutters,” a song from the 2016 album Honey Bones. The song gave the inclination that this concert would be more rock than the “Rose Pink Cadillac,” “Marinade” alt pop we expected. A shining light among the scarce inclusions from the new album was “Miami Baby,” an early feature in the setlist that stood out among other lesser-known tracks. The suspension of audience enthusiasm ended shortly after, once Dope Lemon delivered “Marinade” off their first album. It garnered a lovely accompaniment of oohs and hums. It became clear at this moment that, although swayable and apparently sensual, even the hits off of Dope Lemon’s albums are not meant to be belted in the likes of the Eras Tour, but rather enjoyed in the company of those close to you. In the spirit of connection, Stone followed up the hit with the “Honey Bones” title track, a dedication to an old man who gave him the sitar that was responsible for the incarnation of Dope Lemon. Another homage to the band’s history, Stone continued with a call-and-response song, “Hey Man, Don’t Look at Me Like That.” The audience quickly fell into Dope Lemon’s groove. Audience participation was carried into the 2022 hit “Rose Pink Cadillac” and an impressive encore with “Kids Fallin’ in Love.” Audience members in Masked Singer-esque headpieces bopped along Stone and company – some handled the task better than others.
Stone, and the hype man, might have perfected the level of crowd engagement from witty comments to more bizarre claims, one being that the whole band had just taken mushrooms. I mean, good for them I guess. The crowd involvement even led to, as the above discusses, regular Joes taking to the stage. The backdrop for the show added to the sense of a culturally alternative atmosphere with creative graphics specific to each track; these ranged from dancing lemons to 1960s flower patterns. The conversation and visuals did not detract from the music; each song provided a dynamic sound into which the audience quickly made themselves comfortable. The crowd was surprisingly geriatric, with our crew being the youngest by a couple of years to say the least. With Stone being a relatively recent artist under the name Dope Lemon, perhaps it is the alternative surf sound of his music that lures an older audience.
Stone and the rest of Dope Lemon took on a challenging task– to bridge the gap between their crowd-pleasing alt-pop hits and their sitar-infused, red-smoke-rock tracks for an older crowd. They handled the challenge with conviction and (possibly hallucinogenic-induced) enjoyment that empowered the bickering crowd to come together. It was not necessarily what we were expecting – my lemon-yellow pants did not fit in as well as I had imagined surrounded by a man without shoes and another in a raccoon hat – but we got a show that will leave us with new songs on our playlists and a new appreciation for Stone, his hype man antics, and the reminder that we can still go dance our hearts out at 9:30 Club in thirty years.