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Marquette Wire

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Marquette Wire

Rostam shines at Milwaukee’s Turner Hall Ballroom

Rostam put on a great show at Turner Hall Ballroom February 12.
Photo by Photo via Wikimedia
Rostam put on a great show at Turner Hall Ballroom February 12.

Rostam Batmanglij, formerly of the band Vampire Weekend, made a stop in Milwaukee Feb. 12 to show some love for a city he’s performed in before, alluding to the great lake and nightlife that this city has to offer.

Batmanglij, 34, made a famous exit from Vampire Weekend in 2016. He skyrocketed to fame after the band met and formed in college at Columbia University. Originally from Washington D.C., Batmanglij remained on the East Coast for school and stayed in New York City, where the band got their music start.

Now going by the stage name Rostam, he made his solo album debut with “Half Light” in 2017, consisting of songs that he has written in the past 10 years. The album is truly a solo look back on his life, shining a light on his love life, being openly gay and reminiscing on times spent in cities where he has made memories, with odes to New York and California beaches.

Rostam performed in Milwaukee’s Turner Hall Ballroom, located on N. 4th Street, directly across from the BMO Bradley Harris Center. Turner Hall is a historical landmark, yet on the second floor the ballroom opens up to showcase an open-feeling ballroom along with two bars, comfortable seating options and the main event: the stage. Opening for Rostam was the band Joy Again, a five-piece band from Philadelphia. They had a young, quirky vibe that matched the atmosphere and fans at the venue. The teen population in the room gravitated towards the front of the stage. They played a total nine-piece song set before Rostam came out.

The vibe calmed down the moment Rostam entered the stage. The young and old fans left the bar and their conversations to gather around the stage. He was accompanied by a four-piece string section and a pianist. Rostam was the center of attention as he stood on a carpet, with his mic and the rest of the instrumentalists remained seated around him, allowing the atmosphere to feel comfortable and homey.

He opened up with the last track on his album, “Don’t Let Me Go (Reprise).” As the lights turned down, a hush fell over the ballroom, allowing the string lights to make the ambiance feel romantic. The song was slow and showcased the amazing vocals that Rostam has as a three-piece wheel graphic spun slowly behind him.

His vulnerability showed through not only in his lyrics, but his presence on stage. The Milwaukee hipster crowd swayed to the music, as lovers and friends held each other. The song beat in your heart and caught your breath as the slow percussion drum beat sang out. The love in the room was palpable.

He took the crowd through a journey, introducing every song before he sang it and allowing cool, new-aged graphics to play out behind him. Turner Hall’s audience swayed under the whimsical lights and danced to his music.

Rostam’s songs were accompanied by graphics that fit the mood appropriately for each number. His second number “Sumer” travelled through a mesmerizing dessert drive from day to night. He followed that with the track “Wood” as an enchanting paisley kaleidoscope took over the screen, meshed with smooth percussions and a deep drum beat.

The next number that Rostam introduced was the most popular thus far on his album, “Bike Dream,” noting that the music video only came out two weeks ago. The track talked about a complex love story, remembering everything he felt in those moments, connecting love and the city. The skyline of New York draped over the screen as he reminisced on the morning after finding out that his loved one loves another as he was “hailing cabs out of your door, on 14th Street I feel my head between my knees.”

He requested the lights to be lowered in the venue as he sang about the radiating, vulnerability of true love. The track titled “EOS” started out with the sounds of crickets filling the ballroom, highlighting the spaciousness, but bringing it right back once his voice hit the mic, transitioning into the lyrics “listen to the crickets of my heart.” Couples danced in the spacious ballroom, including a hand hold from a couple in their 60s, feeling the rawness in his lyrics.

Rostam sang tributes to his old band members, his friend Wes and did a rendition of Nick Drake’s 1971 “Pink Moon,” causing a stir amongst the crowd as two friends high-fived at the song title alone. Rostam prepped for a sing along with his next number “Rudy,” pointing when it was appropriate to sing along, as people raised their beers in harmony. The recent album’s title track, “Half Light,” was filled with an incredibly clear harmonica and guitar solo from Rostam himself, as New York City’s sunrise set the mood behind him.

His next song took a futuristic turn as stars and the sky filled the screen while a beautiful violin captured the audiences’ attention. He planned to end with that number, but the Milwaukee crowd wanted more as he ran back on for an encore. He first encored a special treat to the crowd and Rostam didn’t give a title, as the track is not even out yet. The freshness allowed for the dying out of the concert to spark excitement for the possibility of what is to come from this talented artist.

Rostam surely showed Milwaukee that he can handle being solo and allowed for this album and concert to truly shed a light on his personal life, one filled with love and memories that he holds close to his heart.

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