Snowbody’s Straight: Renee Rapp and Towa Bird at Roseland Theater, Portland
Stopping at Portland’s Roseland Theater on her sold out Snow Hard Feelings Tour, pop princess Renee Rapp gave an emotional rollercoaster of a set for her devout LGBTQ crowd, with support from Towa Bird. Words by Bren Swogger and photos by Emma Davis. Full photo gallery here.
“Is anyone here straight?” Renee Rapp asked in the middle of her set. “Raise your hand.”
Amongst the packed crowd at the sold out Roseland Theater, nothing but laughs were heard in reply. Nary a hand raised, Renee Rapp had proved the point the whole crowd seemed to know from the get: this show was for the girls, the gays, and the gay girls only.
Looking at the billing for the evening, this felt like it was to be expected. Pop singer-songwriter Renee Rapp, who took the industry by storm with her stellar EP Everything to Everyone, followed by her debut album released this year, Snow Angel, has been very openly and proudly out as bisexual.
She sings about it on her album, talks about it on podcasts (see: Angel Hour Radio on Apple Music, specifically the “Renee’s Gay Girls” episode). It only makes sense that the crowd devoted enough to sell out an entire tour for her would be the ones who felt the most seen by her music and her personality.
But it’s not just Renee who completed the theme for the night’s billing. Opener Towa Bird, one of Renee’s Gay Girls in question, describes herself as “if 70s Classic Rock and 90s Britpop had a baby and the baby was queer, asian and a woman.”
As soon as she stepped on stage, Towa Bird set the scene for the night, greeting the crowd: “What’s up, bisexuals? How we doin’ tonight?”
This marking her Portland debut, Towa Bird gave the crowd everything she had… and blew everyone away in the process. Whereas Renee brings the bubblegum pop (with a tinge of existential crisis), Towa Bird kicked the evening off with rowdy, energetic and bombastic grungy pop rock vibes. Her presence was passionate, and on the guitar, for lack of better phrasing, she fucking shreds.
Towa’s short and punchy set was the perfect pick me up for an unusually hot October night, and after another set from indie pop songwriter Alexander 23, the stage was set for Renne Rapp’s much-anticipated headline performance.
Following a pre-show setlist featuring multiple Taylor Swift songs that sent the entire room into a frenzy, the lights dimmed and a slideshow of childhood home videos of Renne shined out on the massive screen backing the stage. It was the perfect intro for her arrival, punctuated immediately by two of her most popular songs to kick off the night: “Talk Too Much” and “Poison Poison”.
As Rapp strutted the stage in her oversized sweatshirt and sweatpants, the crowd was immediately insane. Like Towa before her, this was also Renee’s first time in Oregon, and she wasn’t about to let her Northwest fans down. Her energy and excitement was palpable, and though the temperature in the room was already warm with the autumn heatwave outside, the heat just seemed to rise as the night went on.
“Is it always this hot in Oregon?” Renee asked the crowd.
From the front row, a girl responded with a quick wit: “It’s because you’re here!”
Flustered and flattered, Renee approached the edge of the stage to greet the fan brave enough to throw out that one-liner.
“Are you hitting on me?” she asked the fan. “You guys are so cute here.”
Renee’s headline set was split into four parts after the four seasons. Closing out the summer set to move into autumn, Renne welcomed her friend and tourmate Towa Bird back to the stage, who joined her on guitar for fan-favorite “Tummy Hurts”.
As autumn settled upon the crowd, Renee slowed things down, sitting on the edge of the stage to serenade the room with the gut-punch ballad “I Hate Boston”.
But that wasn’t to be the biggest gut-punch of the night. By choosing to close her set with the season of winter, Renne Rapp saved her most vulnerable–and arguably best–songs for the end.
Fans in the room clutched at their hearts and wiped away tears and she played through “Gemini Moon”, “The Wedding Song”, and “I Wish”, where she was joined onstage by Alexander 23 on guitar. Even the security guards at the barricade were feeling it all, one taking out his lighter to wave in the air amongst the sea of cell phone lights.
Renee closed the main set with “In The Kitchen”, which offers one of the most moving, powerful choruses from her debut album–or any album this year, for that matter–showcasing not only her incredible songwriting ability but her stellar vocal performance.
Disappearing briefly from the stage, the crowd still struggling to emotionally recover, Renee emerged one last time, now dressed all in white with snow and angel wings behind her, to perform her most vulnerable and heart-wrenching song, “Snow Angel”… a gorgeous end to an emotional rollercoaster of a night.