Concert Reviews

Maggie Rogers Had the Crowd Dancing Like No One Was Watching (and Registering to Vote)

Maggie Rogers, who went viral after stunning Pharrell Williams with her song "Alaska," stunned the audience at The Bomb Factory on Friday.
Maggie Rogers, who went viral after stunning Pharrell Williams with her song "Alaska," stunned the audience at The Bomb Factory on Friday. Mike Brooks
With only three more shows left touring to support her debut studio album, Maggie Rogers made a stop at the Bomb Factory on Friday night — but it wasn't the first time she’s walked the streets of Deep Ellum.

“When I was in college, I dated a Dallas boy for a couple of years,” Rogers told a thrilled audience after performing “On + Off.”

“The last song I just played we produced together, and the last time I was at this venue I was with him to see D’Angelo. … It is so special for me to be back here tonight, so thank you for bringing us here.”

click to enlarge Maggie Rogers just wants her audience to dance and vote. - MIKE BROOKS
Maggie Rogers just wants her audience to dance and vote.
Mike Brooks
Rogers gained fame seemingly overnight with a little help from Pharrell Williams. As she told The Guardian in 2017, she was pursuing her degree in music engineering and production at New York University, and her homework assignment consisted of bringing a song to class. Williams happened to be in class that day to critique the students' songs.

After she played him “Alaska,” a track she created after two years of writer’s block, Williams was speechless and even teared up. The video of his reaction and the class went viral. Once she graduated, Rogers was signed by Capitol Records with a contract that allowed the singer to keep creative control over her output and image.

With this strong pushback against the glitz and glam of Hollywood, it seems safe to say that the Maggie Rogers we saw onstage at the Bomb Factory is the same person she was when she was in the audience years ago, and will be the same person wherever her music takes her in the future.

On Friday night, Rogers’ show opened with British artist Jacob Banks, whose jaw-dropping vocals have unending depth and feeling. Rogers started her set with a slow a capella ballad, belting “The Color Song” through the crowd’s huge screams as her cloaked figure was silhouetted on a giant sheet.

But from the moment that tasty beat from “Fallingwater” hit and the sheet came down, the show became a party. As Rogers performed tracks like “Burning,” “Say It” and “The Knife,” the audience couldn’t stop dancing. (But not in the “we’re so cool we’re in Deep Ellum living it up” way, but in the “dancing in your room with a hairbrush like no one’s watching” kind of way.)

“Is everybody here registered to vote?” — Maggie Rogers, to the crowd

tweet this

And that’s the kind of spirit Rogers brings out in people. Her joyful presence, the way she embodies her live music with such carefree movement, is a breath of fresh air in a world of calculated, polished pop-star personas.

Rogers' endless energy filled up the stage. After playing a song she dedicated to her band, the singer picked up an acoustic guitar and played a new song.

“Love You For a Long Time” is a small departure from Rogers’ sound, with a slight country feel. It makes one even more intrigued about what's in store for the singer’s next musical phase.

“Is everybody here registered to vote?” Rogers asked after playing “Retrograde,” a fan favorite. She spoke about the two organizations she’s taken with her on tour: Head Count and Planned Parenthood. “I believe that concerts are a bipartisan space. I believe there are plenty of issues we’re dealing with that are human issues, not partisan issues. And I do believe that democracy requires your vote to work. So is there any way I can empower your vote? If you’re not registered, you can do so in our lobby on your way out,” she told the crowd.

Rogers’ joyous spirit didn’t waver for a second. With the help of a loop station, she closed the show with an upbeat remix of “Light On.” But after much unapologetic and deafening chanting — of “Maggie! Maggie! Maggie!” — by the crowd, Rogers came back and stood alone with a guitar onstage, hair up, for her encore.

She told the crowd that this year marks her 10th year as a songwriter, as audience members shushed each other aggressively. After all, their queen was talking.

“When I came to concerts I was always looking for something," Rogers said. "Looking to connect to something bigger than myself. Looking for a release. Looking for relief."

Then, it was only Maggie Rogers, her guitar, and the song that left Pharrell Williams speechless three years ago — the song that led to her leaving her house in Brooklyn to depart on tour in a van with eight people. It’s meant to be upbeat and danceable, but she played it slow. It was haunting. And we loved it.

click to enlarge Maggie Rogers was on her knees asking audience members to REGISTER TO VOTE. - MIKE BROOKS
Maggie Rogers was on her knees asking audience members to REGISTER TO VOTE.
Mike Brooks
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Isabel Arcellana has been writing for the Observer since spring 2018 and has been creating fake newspapers for her mom since she was 8. She graduated from SMU with a double major in journalism and fashion media. Her five guitars are named after High School Musical characters.