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The Mk.gee Live Experience is Nothing Short of Magic

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The musician Mk.gee — pronounced like a surname and not a URL — has managed to burrow himself deeply into a growing niche in listeners’ psyche. The 28-year-old’s subtly transfixing debut, Two Star & The Dream Police, released in February, manages to accomplish a remarkable fusion of sonic and emotional textures all while using very little — just a guitar and a few pedals. The overall impact can feel like a tear opening in the universe. During his sold-out show at Brooklyn’s Elsewhere last night, he stood drenched in the glow of the piercing strobe lights that have come to define fan clips from his current tour which, rather than go viral, seem to send a beacon to people on the same frequency. A kind of intricate subtlety that feels blissfully impossible to capture, allowing you to give up on trying and instead experience the show.

This isn’t to say phones didn’t rise into the air at times. One of the most engaging parts of Two Star & The Dream Police is how fragmentally puzzle-like the songs fit together, and in the live setting, Mk.gee opted to flesh out the world between each track, creating an irresistible and enveloping sonic atmosphere. During fan favorite “Are You Looking Up,” you could indeed look up and see a handful of iPhones recording, but even then a fraction of what you’d expect from such a hotly anticipated show. Mk.gee has managed to cultivate something that thrusts you back into the bodily sensation of music.

This could explain why every date on the tour has been sold out for months. Mk.gee has quietly risen to a near obsession for many fans, all while remaining relatively low-key. There was a performance on Kimmel that blew the minds of those tuned into his frequency, but otherwise missed the traditional hype cycles we typically see with breakthrough artists. The same goes for his naturalistic visuals like the music video of sorts for “Are You Looking Up,” directed by Danica Kleinknecht and featuring Mk.gee performing the track — just like it sounds on the album — while leaning out of the side of a bus driving through the woods. Or the one for “A Litte Bit More,” this time filmed atop a bus driving through what looks like New Jersey, Mk.gee’s hometown. Something like a skate video, we watch as he wields his guitar with a deftness capable of altering the physical world around him.

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Mk.gee performs in the Hall at Elsewhere in Brooklyn, New York.

Griffin Lotz for Rolling Stone

In-person, it’s just the same. The crowd, despite being packed to the gills, was dead silent at moments, simply transfixed by what was taking place in front of them. For his part, Mk.gee seems focused purely on the music in the way an athlete might treat a playoff game. Except it doesn’t feel like ambition fueling him, more like raw passion. For instance, when he ran backstage for a beer before launching into a new still untitled track, a somber, lonesome ballad with all of the resonance you’d expect, it didn’t feel like the faux-relatable antics of a media-trained rocker but someone who briefly snapped out of a deep creative trance realizing they were thirsty. During “Rylie & I,” midway through the set, the room was pitch black save for the two strobes on stage, giving the crowd the sense of light emanating quite literally from Mk.gee’s heart, which is as simple a concept as any set design, yet effective beyond words.

A gifted guitarist, Mk.gee showed flashes of Prince in the ornate, intricately constructed flourishes on songs like “Little Bit More,” where he’d summon a thunderous roar from his strings and wrangle the chords into harmonic precision. Aided by electronics by Zach Sekoff as well as guitarist Andrew Aged — whose band Inc. No World now feels a decade ahead of its time — the live rendition of album opener “New Low” had the energy of coming to an idea for the first time. As if we were in the room with them writing it. Which is a good way to describe much of Mk.gee’s music, and the magic of his live performance. There’s a level of improvisation that while not forced, arrives like a distinctly controlled form of chaos. It feels impossible and natural all at once, which could be another way of saying it felt human in the best possible way.

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