By Casey Whitworth

Walking into Sonia in Cambridge on Thursday evening, the first thing I noticed was how many people were wearing hats. There were so many hats. Most people in the venue were, in fact, wearing some iteration of the same outfit: baggy jeans or cargos, a puffer jacket, and, you know, a hat. Some Freddie Gibbs, some Westside Gunn and the like played loudly throughout the space.  People went back and forth from the bar, chatting energetically with their concert-going companions or standing alone, eyes closed, head bobbing along with the beat. 

We didn’t have to wait long for the show to begin. Michael Christmas took the stage and delivered one of the most casual and genuine performances I’d seen in a while. No bells and whistles— simply an artist sharing with a patient audience what he’s been working on, what he’s proud of. “Y’all like that one?”, he’d ask following each song. His songs were real, fun, and full of energy, just like the man standing in front of us. 

Sideshow was up next, and he was also a very relaxed performer, not afraid to level with the audience. His confidence radiated from the stage, and he rapped as if it were a conversation with the audience— chill, natural, not making a big deal of itself. All in all, the two openers were grounded and straightforward, the epitome of authenticity. 

Maxo arrived on the stage almost immediately after Sideshow finished up. His face was completely covered by sunglasses and a cap, an unpretentious yet enigmatic figure. The lights, which were bright and revealing before, turned to green and blue, creating a hazy, dreamlike atmosphere. He began the set; the sound was reverberating, his words echoing throughout the space. Family photos and old images of Maxo himself flashed behind him, giving us an answer to the question of who and what he’s making music for. 

We interviewed Maxo the week before the show, and he came across as a very authentic and genuine man, much like Michael Christmas and Sideshow seemed to be. But, unlike them, his performance felt surreal, less like a concert and more an experience he was willing to bring us through with him. The realness was still there in his words and story, but it became murky and illusive underneath all the layers of spectacle. 

He moved back and forth on the stage, seemingly uncertain of where to place himself at the beginning of the show. But, as each song passed, he came closer and closer to the audience, perching at the edge of the stage and even walking in front of it at one point. He was always 

either looking down or looking up, humility and dignity somehow working in tandem. “How we feeling?” he’d ask, his words again echoing as the crowd shouted and whistled their approval, the congregation receiving the sermon.


The crowd was calm and confident, unafraid to speak their minds. It was, in general, a very positive vibe, give and take between performer and audience. This give and take manifested itself in the form of questions asked and feedback requested by the openers, and in the form of a sense of understanding between Maxo and ourselves. He was there simply to share his music, and we were there to listen. It felt easy and unassuming, an experience devoid of conceit or vanity. 

I hope Maxo enjoyed his first time in Boston. I hope to see him back sometime soon, and I’m sure he will be welcomed back warmly.