A Conversation with Mallrat & Maggie Rogers’ Final Stop Before SNL

At 5:15pm on Tuesday, October 30, there was already a line forming outside of The Riviera — where Mallrat and Maggie Rogers would be playing that night, having sold out the Vic Theatre.

I walked past the line to the side door of the venue to meet opener Mallrat, 19-year-old Australian artist and producer Grace Shaw. The bouncer had me wait outside and Shaw’s manager mumbled something about not getting in the building until doors at 6:30, so I interviewed Shaw in an alley with my phone balanced precariously on a dumpster. Rats, alley, trash — it added up.

Shaw gave me a hug and excitedly gushed about her day in Chicago so far:

“We got vegan pizza and Tamagotchis! It’s pretty much been the best day ever,” she said. Her Tamagotchi proceeded to beep for food or waste cleanup the entire interview.

Shaw released EP In The Sky back in June and has since been touring and playing festivals in Australia. She’s also been working on lots of new music for an EP that is “almost ready,” with a single on the way.

Shaw and Rogers were mutual fans before Shaw supported the Australian leg of her tour. The two also announced the day of Chicago’s show that Shaw will be joining Roger’s upcoming European tour.

The two artists are at the beginnings of their young careers—Shaw has yet to release an album beyond her EPs and Rogers’ first album, Now That The Light Is Fading was just 6 songs long. Their genre-transcendent stylings and influences have rallied an inspired Gen Z fanbase.

A more unexpected tour partner for Shaw was Post Malone. Shaw was first inspired by rapper Allday and her sound harkens to and incorporates rap elements while living beyond the genre. So her music fits with Post Malone’s, but the fan base was a little different than the young females in moto jackets and mom jeans lined up 2 hours early outside of The Riviera….

“I’ve got this song called ‘Make Time’ which is my favorite but least popular song. It’s very slow, so I play that at these Maggie Rogers shows. Then at the Post Malone shows I did a Drake cover. The crowds were so rowdy … We played two, one in Brisbane down the road from my house and then the Perth one, which was scary. We kept having to stop so security could pull people out from the front.”

In regards to music that landed her opening gigs for acts on such opposite sides of the spectrum, Shaw said: “I have no desire to make songs that sound like something that already exists or even songs that sound like each other. I get bored really easily.”

She rattled off her various influences that point towards that versatility: Hudson Mohawk, Billie Eilish, Charli XCX, Johnny Cash, Lana del Rey, SOPHIE and the OC soundtrack. One of the influences she mentions most, especially as we’re in Chicago, is Kanye West. I pressed her on some of his more recent hot takes.

“I don’t agree with everything he’s said… But sometimes I feel like he’s so taken out of context. Almost every single thing that he’s said, that’s been a crazy headline, in the interview it’s been a really thoughtful and good point. And even the stuff that’s more complicated than he made it out to be, he meant well with what he was saying.”

I let her know that an hour before this interview he tweeted that he’s getting out of politics, and saw a wash of relief come over her. “I’m happy to defend Kanye… but it’s tiring!”

Grace Shaw (Mallrat)

West isn’t the only problematic man native to Chicago that Shaw has aligned herself with. Her name “Mallrat” was taken from a song by The Orwells, who disbanded in early September over sexual abuse and misconduct allegations.

Shaw had no idea about the allegations until the interviewer before me mentioned them, she said. “It’s sad … That’s so crazy. When I heard that song [“Mallrats (La La La)”] it was sick… but now it’s confusing… dumb men.”

I took a picture of Shaw next to the signs warning about rats in the area, and as she pulled out a Contax 2 film camera to capture the signs herself, I could already see her pulling fodder to define her name beyond its origins. She already has millions more Spotify listens than The Orwells anyway.

Flash forward to 7:30 and the Riviera is packed. After getting past people angrily figuring out what to do with their forbidden backpacks, I made my way down the venue’s side ramp to the floor level. The venue is notorious for becoming hard to see at past a saturation point, and the upper bar level is one of those areas. Note: My spot was ruined 5 minutes before Rogers took the stage as a couple, both over 6 feet tall, butted in front to the dismay of all the concert goers around me, all of which (myself included) were too meek to confront them.

Mallrat and her DJ, Denim, got through most of her discography under the stage’s blue and red lights. Highlights included “Bunny Island” a song that channeled SOPHIE’s production in lyrics about “the valley,” which Shaw explained is where the clubs are in Brisbane. “I never plan to go there, but I always end up there.”

Mallrat and DJ Denim

The song also featured Shaw rapping in Japanese about an island she’s visited in the country. Her DJ left her stand to join her for a verse and some cute, jumpy choreography. This led into “Uninvited” whose repetition made for a pretty good call-and-response feature for an opening act.

After the break between acts, the lights went down and ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” blasted through the speakers. The audience knew who that moniker was beckoning…

Maggie Rogers spun onto the stage for the opening notes of power anthem “Give A Little” in a red and white coordinated pants and t-shirt set, hair in a bun (but not for long). Her dance moves were enthusiastic and coordinated while unrestrained and uncalculated — channeling her natural, down-to-earth but sparkly and dancey style.

She stopped, smiling, to let the crowd know that this was the largest show she’d ever played. She later compared the size of the crowd (over 2,500) to her show for 250 people in Chicago two years ago. She also told the audience that she was sick of waiting for her new album to come out (its release is set for January 18) and that she planned to play the whole thing that night.

She spoke to her year away from the spotlight after that viral video where Pharrell was moved to tears and sang her praises after hearing a demo of “Alaska” while she was studying at NYU. It was a nice parallel to recent box-office success A Star Is Born — what if Jackson Maine left Ally alone after bringing her onstage once and let her ride the wave of viral fame herself? Rogers said she never made less music than when she became a musician (post-viral fame), and spent the last year mostly alone to reflect and write.

You could tell Rogers was earnest when speaking about how much she loves performing live — her dance moves, smiles and early thanking of both her band and opener proved both her enthusiasm and gratitude. She also announced that this tour was cut short so she could fly to New York City for SNL this weekend. The crowd went wild. Everyone in that room felt like they followed her from a YouTube video to the biggest stage possible, and they were more excited than protective.

The crowd grooved along to the new tunes without hesitation. They clapped for her reminder to vote in the midterms. They sang along loudly to single “Fallingwater.” And they waited, patiently, for her to come back out for an encore of the song that started it all.

However, Rogers had other plans. “Sometimes at shows I get so much fizzy adrenaline that it’s nice to come down. And it’s nice when we come down together.” The crowd knew that this wasn’t an introduction for bubbly, pop track “Alaska,” and hesitation was felt throughout the crowd for the first time of the night.

“If you have to cough or sneeze, dot it! But if you have to yell something, maybe wait,” Rogers said. Her band remained offstage. This was just Rogers and her mic commanding over 2,500 people with outstanding acapella vocal chops on minimalistic track “Color Song.” Then it was Rogers without the mic commanding over 2,500 people with her outstanding vocal chops. It was truly the most impressive feat I’ve seen at a live show.

She carried on to cover “Angel from Montgomery” by John Prine and finally performed crowd-pleaser “Alaska.” She wore a cowboy hat thrown at her from the audience, took a bow in-tandem with her band and went off stage to “Dance With Somebody” as the crowd, carried on by their own adrenaline rush, crooned and grooved into the rainy Tuesday night.

Maggie Rogers – Photo by Colleen Dempsey
Erin McAuliffe
Erin McAuliffe