Concert Review: Omar Apollo

Chicano singer-songwriter Omar Apollo bring his homemade bilingual love songs to San Diego.

Indie’s newest Chicano heartthrob Omar Apollo played a sold out show at the Irenic on May 4. Apollo embarked on his tour called “The Voyager” in early March, playing songs from his newest EP, “Friends,” as well as fan favorites from his 2018 EP, “Stereo.” His breakout single “Ugotme” currently has 14 million streams and counting, garnering a loyal fan base and catapulting him to fame. Apollo’s bilingual soul and pop tunes are undeniably catchy, proving himself to be a musical powerhouse.

Apollo was born and raised in the small town of Hobart, Indiana by his parents who are originally from Mexico. Apollo cites them as his main inspiration for pursuing music. He mentioned in an interview with Remezcla that his parents gave him his first guitar at age 11, and from there he taught himself how to play and write his own songs. At first, his parents viewed his musical endeavors as solely a hobby, but now Apollo is able to support his parents, who worked hard to support him and his siblings, with his newfound musical success. He’s one of the biggest names in the indie scene, making music for a new generation of Chicano artists.

The relatively small venue was packed wall to wall, the crowd comprised of eager fans waiting for their favorite brown boy, a term of endearment fans use to describe Apollo, to grace the stage. The opening act and fellow Latina artist, Ambar Lucid, set the tone for the rest of the night with her ethereal voice and love songs. Lucid performed songs off her debut album “Dreaming Lucid” including “Eyes,” a sweet and tender song about her lover accompanied by delicate guitar strums and sultry saxophone hook. She also showcases her bilingual songwriting with “Painted Red,” a psychedelic tune about a whimsical and enchanting encounter with a beautiful girl.

Apollo’s band, consisting of drummer Joey Medrano, bassist Manny Barajas, and guitarist Oscar Emilio, nonchalantly took their place on stage, unphased by the hundreds of screaming fans whose suspense had been building up for hours.

Apollo burst on to the stage as the band began the set with “Ignorin,” the squelching electric guitar and funky bass line permeating through the crowd as they jumped and danced to the catchy beat. Building off that energy and bringing the groove, Apollo sang “Ashamed,” the funky and bass heavy track off of “Friends.” Throughout the song, Omar showed off his range with his guttural and sultry vocalizations. The fun-loving atmosphere had everyone dancing and singing along.

Not too far into his set, he made an announcement: “There is someone here that wants to ask their girlfriend to prom.” As an artist who mostly sings about romance it seemed only fitting that Apollo would help a fan realize their own love fantasy. The promposal was a success and Apollo helped seal the deal by playing “Pram,” a short but sweet tune about wanting to be noticed by your crush. To get the energy flowing again, Apollo transported us back in time with “So Good,” reminiscent of a psychedelic, disco throwback fantasy.

While the stage design and lights were very minimal, Omar’s dance moves made for an entertaining and visually expressive performance. Just like his music, his dance moves were not confined to one specific genre. From doing a rendition of the dougie to salsa, Omar made had the whole crowd dancing along. It felt as if the crowd was at a houseparty, dancing without a care to some bomb music.

With the heat of the venue being almost unbearable, Apollo decided to strip down, literally and metaphorically, taking off his fringe leather jacket and singing his newest love song “Friends,” exposing his more intimate and vulnerable side and experiences with unrequited love. He had all the stage lights turned off and encouraged us to pull out our iPhone flashlights. With his lyrics “I can’t pretend that I don’t feel this/ ‘Cause if I don’t, it’ll leave me depressed,” Apollo had us all in our feelings.

The moment we had all been waiting for, Apollo hit us with “Ugotme.” His sultry vocals and bluesy guitar had the whole audience attempting to emulate his effortless riffs and runs. Apollo ended off the night with “Hijo de Su Madre,” flexing on us with his rapping skills and funky dance moves. The whole crowd was jumping and revelling in the high energy which sadly had to come to an end.

As a first-generation American citizen, Apollo is paving his way through the music scene and claiming his spot, which is oftentimes not afforded to Latinx artists. His ability to incorporate his heritage into his bedroom pop and soulful tunes is refreshing. Omar’s performance, as well as his lyrics from “Hijo de Su Madre,” reminds us that “you truly ain’t ever seen a brown boy like this.”

Grade: A-
Date: May 5
Venue: The Irenic

Image courtesy of Pursuit of Dopeness.