In the nation's capital, MØ and Cashmere Cat stopped at the 9:30 Club for the third and fourth dates of their international MEØW Tour.
The Danish-born musician and Norwegian-born producer have been friends since 2013, but until 2017 had never collaborated, let alone toured together.
MØ, full name Karen Marie Ørsted, hasn't been to the Washington, D.C. area since December 2016, when she also performed at the 9:30 Club. In that time, she released a number of singles, including "Get It Right" with frequent collaborator Diplo, and the When We Were Young EP, which experimented with a variety of new sounds.
I have had the pleasure of watching Cashmere Cat, full name Magnus August Høiberg, grow and develop alongside my own journey as a concert photographer and reviewer. In 2014, a week after I graduated from high school, Cashmere Cat played a show at the Ogden Theatre in Denver that would be my first to photograph. Since then (and by the time this article is published) I'll have seen the Cat a total of eight times, in five different states.
Høiberg has, before my very ears, progressed from a SoundCloud artist with a clear vision of cute and bouncy hip-hop to a production powerhouse with a Billboard 200-charting debut album, 9. It's incredible that a musician so reclusive that early photos never showed his face is now in the studios with artists like Kanye West, The Weeknd and Ariana Grande.
Høiberg has developed his sets over the years, slowly injecting more of his own production. Now, the hour performance is mostly originals or his own remixes. Cashmere Cat quietly bounces away on stage, his thin frame exaggerated by an oversized bomber and clunky shoes. The occasional moment when he climbs on top of the booth reveals a pair of knee guards — but whether they're practical or a fashion statement remains to be seen.
He takes the audience on a journey from his own sedated instrumentals to the breakneck pace of tunes like SOPHIE's "Ponyboy," along with the occasional interjection of a squeaking bed, courtesy of the Jersey club beats he used at the start of his career.
Although SOPHIE is not touring with the duo, her unique style makes another appearance in the set when MØ joins Cashmere Cat for a live performance of their triple-credited collaboration "9 (After Coachella)." The song features gentle build-ups from Høiberg, mournful lyrics from Ørsted and pure machine aggression from SOPHIE in the form of cacophonous drops that rock the crowd.
With multiple sold-out shows only three dates in, the tour has already proved wildly successful, leaving Brooklyn and D.C. to add second nights onto the already-packed schedule.
Supporting the two is French artist Darius, who just released his debut album Utopia in November 2017. His French House set boomed along with deep low end and while the four-on-the-floor rhythm would only hold the audience's attention intermittently at its peaks. It was the perfect injection of energy to warm the crowd up for their first headliner of the night, Cashmere Cat.
Only on its third night, the show itself ran extremely smooth, with less than half an hour spent on tearing down the DJ booth and setting up the onstage instruments for MØ and her band. From my position in the photo pit, it was clear that the sold-out Monday night crowd was pushing its way forward to see the unofficial princess of streaming (MØ is the only female artist to be listed twice in the top 15 most-streamed songs of all time on Spotify.)
Horn samples blared through the loudspeakers as MØ took to the stage in an off-white lace top. Her voice sings low and slow until the opening song, "Roots," reached a crescendo and MØ collapsed on the floor belting to the audience, to God: "Where will I dig my roots?"
Exploding into what I consider the LGBT anthem of 2017, Cashmere Cat and SOPHIE get another production nod this evening with MØ's "Nights With You." Her energy radiates through the crowd as she dances in her signature style — whatever she feels like. Possessed by the music, MØ jumps and kicks across the stage, building physical connections with every fan that she can find.
It has been about two years since I last saw a MØ performance at Shaky Beats, a music festival in Atlanta. This raw energy has always been a huge part of her shows, but now, as she seeks to find herself post-"Lean On," her energy and demeanor have become finely tuned weapons to knock the crowd dead.
Perfectly riding the line between quieter moments like "Turn My Heart To Stone" and the bursts of energy that come from performing "Lean On," her Major Lazer collaboration and streaming mega-hit, MØ has found what makes her and her music special, and has found out how to do it well.