Somehow, Concerts Are the Biggest Memes of the Summer

On Wednesday, Juneteenth, Kendrick Lamar threw himself a party. Dubbed “the Pop Out: Ken and Friends,” the concert—held at the Kia Forum in Los Angeles—served as a celebration of West Coast hip-hop, and a “victory lap” for Lamar after he ostensibly won his beef with Drake following the release of “Not Like Us.” Or, as one X user called the show, “Kendrick Lamar Presents: I Hate Drake the Musical.”

The Pop Out, which was livestreamed on Amazon Prime Video, trended Wednesday and into Thursday, and although much of the chatter revolved around the performances by Tyler, the Creator, Steve Lacy, and Dr. Dre, even more seemed to focus on Lamar using the show as a chance to get in another jab at his rival. “Kendrick really threw his own Hatechella lol” wrote one X user, “this is the hateration and holleration that Mary J. Blige was talking about.” The X account for the Public Enemies Podcast wrote “this level of hate will never be duplicated.”

Ultimately, it wasn’t about hate; Lamar expressed several times that the show was meant to be a moment of unity, adding that it had “nothing to do with no song at this point, ain’t got nothing to do with no back and forth records.” He did, though, perform “Not Like Us” upwards of four times, something that in turn fueled the online furor over his beef with Drake even more.

Lamar’s show was just the latest in a series of concerts this summer that have taken viral internet culture moments and brought them to the stage—or used the stage to create viral moments of their own.

Two weeks ago, when pop femininomenon of the moment Chappell Roan took the stage at New York’s Gov Ball dressed as the Statue of Liberty, she created a near-instant meme fueled by her declaration that she turned down an invitation to play a Pride show at the White House. “We want liberty, justice, and freedom for all,” she said. “When you do that, that’s when I’ll come.”

Roan’s popularity, fueled largely by her online fandom and her inability to put a single bad song on The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess, convinced the organizers of Bonnaroo Music Festival to give her a bigger stage at the event last weekend. Her performance, and the thousands of people that flocked to it, created yet another viral moment. (Search “Chappell Roan Bonnaroo” on TikTok for a taste.)

Want me to bring it full circle? Here’s this tweet from X user @JoseRMejia: “Imagine [if] Kendrick brought out Chappell Roan.”

This isn’t the first time concerts have caused a stir online, of course. When Beyoncé headlined Coachella in 2018, it nearly melted down YouTube, which streamed the performance. It ignited the service formerly known as Twitter, too. Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour is like a living meme, getting new iterations every time it goes to a new town or continent, getting its lifeblood, vampire-style, from the hyper-connected Swiftie fandom as it goes.

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