This week, Huntington’s main concert hall, The Paramount, hosted emerging artists from opposite sides of the music spectrum – Flatbush Zombies, a hip hop triad from the Flatbush section of Brooklyn and Jon Bellion, a Lake Grove local who brought vibrant pop chords.
Sunday night, clouds of smoke floated above the crowd in The Paramount, enveloped in the smell of marijuana and God-knows what else. It was a sign: the Zombies were coming.
At 8 p.m., the forgettable opening rapper Tai Cheeba fell flat, feeding into the stagnant mood for his 10-minute set. The stage was then handed off to Kirk Knight, a member of Pro Era, a Brooklyn-based hip-hop collective. Knight instantly hyped the crowd up with sharp verses and Pro Era chants.
Donning a beanie and bright red shoes, the rapper hopped around and set the moshing precedent for the rest of the show.
By 9:30 p.m., the time had come for Flatbush Zombies to command the stage. The group wore white prophet-like clothing and performed songs from their latest album “3001: A Laced Odyssey” that was released in March 2016.
After the anticipation-building intro of “The Odyssey,” a sizable cluster of teens and 20-somethings thrashed around the dance floor, moshing again.
The hour and a half set was filled with favorites like “R.I.P.C.D.,” “Trade-Off,” “New Phone, Who Dis?” and “Bounce.” At one point, the group orchestrated a giant mosh pit that consumed the entire floor to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The crowd screamed the lyrics in cult-like unison.
The Zombies shocked the crowd by bringing out Pro Era member Joey Bada$$ to perform his single “Devastated” about 45 minutes into their performance.
Poetic and potent, the Zombies’ lyrics were delivered like subliminal messages underneath the distinct coating of their voices. The audience consumed strong social and political messages like a kid eating a laced brownie. In “Trade-Off,” they rap, “pray for the children, the government spiking penicillin.”
The positive energy was exponential and by the end of the show, the Zombies had reached a climax. They left everyone equally euphoric and introspective after yelling one phrase: “Open your f—ing mind.”
Then on Thursday night, The Paramount rocked a different crowd for 106.1 BLI’s “Home for The Holidays” concert, a benefit for the Cohen Children’s Medical Center, with performances from New York singers.
The Janes, a five female pop group, opened the charity show at 8 p.m., with an overtly sexual and lackluster performance. Difficult to overlook, the forced erotica and generic tunes caused them to seem like the wannabe Spice Girls who showed up a decade too late.
Following them, Island native Nick Tangorra slightly livened up the audience with his 2010 Justin Bieber appeal. Girls on stilts, female acrobats and Victoria’s Secret Angel copycats performed alongside Tangorra. They were awkwardly misplaced on stage, so they served more like distractions than enhancers.
Two hours was too long to wait for the headliner. The crowd began to chant, “We want Jon!”
At 10 p.m., they finally got what they wanted. Jon Bellion saved the cringe-worthy night with his unmistakable, ultramodern convergence of hip-hop and pop sounds.
Adorned with a smile, he pounced onstage with “He is the Same” and asserted his homegrown feel from the start. R&B artist Travis Mendes bounced around on stage with him, filling in the gaps, although there were few.
The two were dressed in black, along with the rest of Bellion’s band, and they led a raw and animated performance. Hits from his two albums “The Human Condition” and “The Definition” such as “Overwhelming,” “Luxury” and radio hit “All Time Low” were played with inimitable enthusiasm and gratitude within the hour.
Songs like “80’s Films” and “New York Soul – Pt. ii,” which reference recognizable Long Island spots, built on the intimacy he initiated with the audience.
It took little effort for Bellion to command the diverse crowd and unify them into a dancing choir that sounded like it was performing at its own concert.
He finished up at 11 p.m. with a spiritual song, “Hand of God,” but the crowd craved more. “Encore!” they chanted tirelessly. The crowd didn’t even motion to leave.
Bellion and the band hopped back onstage for their concert tradition: seeing how crazy people will go for his single “Jim Morrison.” They built up the crowd for a beat drop a few times, and on the last release, sprayed the barricade-huggers with full bottles of water.
Polar opposites, Bellion’s colorful show starkly contrasted the Flatbush mob’s darker venue takeover. The Zombies fed on the minds of the youth, and homegrown Bellion watered his Island roots.