Rina Sawayama•Dinka Cowboy•Anais Chantal•September 22, 2023•Gallivan Center
Reviewed and Photographed by Mark Daluz
The 36th annual Twilight series has reached its climax, and who had the pleasure of giving the coveted sendoff? On September 22nd, that honor was bestowed on Rina Sawayama. The summer series boasted a number of talented artists in its lineup including Lord Huron, Soccer Mommy, and Death Cab for Cutie, all of them performing at the Gallivan Center. But, today I couldn’t wait to see Rina perform.
My knowledge of the 33-year-old Japanese and British singer was not on par with the other attendees I saw that day. Sad that my only exposure I had to Rina was when I was listening to her top hits on the drive to the Gallivan Center from Park City. Let’s just say my car turned into a mini-club.
Walking to the Gallivan Center around half an hour after doors opened. I was greeted with a decent line wanting to get inside. Seeing that there were three other artists going before Rina, surprised me pleasantly.
First to take the stage was the SLC local Anais Chantal. Her first three songs were a great way to ease the audience into the last day of Twilight. The audience at this point was pretty tame. There were about 80 people on the floor but I would say another 50 ish in the surrounding area and lawn were also listening in. Anais’ music consisted of soulful, heartfelt melodies (with a touch of storytelling) while performing with a near fairy-like aura. You could say Anais was a girl boss on that stage as squeals and screams for her were rampant across the audience. So many “slays” during her second to song if I may add. Overall, super impressed with Anais’s performance, got me excited for what’s to come.
When looking at the performers list, an artist by the name of Tom Rasmussen was supposed to take the stage. But, an artist by the name of Dinka Cowboy took it instead. I didn’t know that Dinka Cowboy took Tom’s slot so I took it for a technical issue and considered him someone to buy time. Huge mistake on my part. For the entire time Dinka Cowboy took the stage, the DJ turned the open outdoor venue and made it into his own little raving club. There was major head bopping going on in certain sections of the crowd. Very rarely was there a whole collective of rave-like jamming. Some notable moments were when he remixed “I’m Good (Blue)’ by David Guetta & Bebe Rexha and “Barbie Girl” by Aqua.
The penultimate act of the show was given to Lorely Rodriguez, known professionally as Empress Of. The Honduran-American singer was a blast. Notably, her stage presence was as captivating to watch as it was to listen to. Every song she danced and performed she did so with a youth-like energy. Almost like a little kid having the best dance party of their lives behind closed doors. Even as the night finally laid upon us she made it a priority to make a connection with the dimly lit audience, whether it was to make prolonged eye contact with someone or to make fun snarky comments to her crowd. Everything about her performance made it so she was loved by everyone there.
With the moon making its rise on the fairly chilly night, the chatter of the now-packed GA section was suddenly interrupted by the simultaneous scream of the hundreds there. As the lights filled the venue, the audience waited in anticipation for when Rina would take the platform.
On the stage, there was a huge screen in the center that usually just displayed the name of the artist who was playing. Not now. A video played of what seemed like the face of a younger version of Rina looking out at the audience. As that played, Rina took the stage as she walked in a white dress as she made a transition into her Hyperpop hit “Hold My Girl”. During the entire song, the screams were enough to render my earplugs useless. Looking back at the people in the audience from curiosity, people were in tears and had their hand over their mouths made me realize the grandeur of Rina.
If I could give a common theme to the other acts before Rina, I would say that empowerment was the biggest denominator. I can easily see how Rina was a symbol for empowerment for everyone in attendance that day. Her music isn’t afraid of broaching subjects that aren’t mentioned enough. One song that demanded my attention was “Send My Love to John”. This was the only song that strayed away from the pop sound I was so used to hearing all night to a beautiful guitar-driven ballad.
Pretty much every song Rina wrote was about herself, even stating that her songs are autobiographical. But this song was about a close queer friend of Rina’s and the perspective of his immigrant mother not showing the love he deserved because of their conservative religious background. The name comes from a “normal” phone call with his mother where she ended the call with “Send My Love to John” who is his long-term partner.
Rina Sawayama, alongside the talents of Anais Chantal, Dinka Cowboy, and Empress of, orchestrated a finale that will linger in the memories of all who gathered under that moonlit sky. In closing, the Twilight series’ last hurrah was a truly unforgettable experience. It blended diverse musical talents, a sense of empowerment, and an electric atmosphere, encapsulating the essence of this storied series. Until we meet again next year!