All photos by Bradley
For most Internet phenomenons, the pinnacle of their online career comes with a brief mention from a creepy Matt Lauer on The Today Show before their 15 minutes of fame quickly flames out. It’s not as if Daniel Tosh talks about, or even thinks about, the kid from Chocolate Rain these days. When it comes to Internet sensations, you’re time to shine is short.
Yet, Midwestern hip-hop artist Leslie Hall made the jump from Internet fame to actual fame by catapulting her online sensation into a stage production and cottage industry. Hall broke out in 2005 rapping about gold pants and bedazzled sweaters. Living in her parent’s house in Ames, Iowa, she drew Internet fame for her self-produced short films.
The artist straight outta cornfields soon found herself fielding questions on MTV’s Total Request Live and performing on Nickelodeon’s Yo Gabba Gabba. In 2006, Leslie Hall was named by VH1 as one of the “40 Greatest Internet Superstars.”
Last week, Hall brought her Leslie and the Lys crew for a third performance in Washington, DC at the DC9. The event sold out days before the show, and those in attendance lined up early in the style of bedazzled sweaters usually seen at retirement homes and Midwestern church socials. Despite being sold out, scores of fans stalked the DC9 in hopes of snagging an extra ticket.
Hall, noticeably slimmed down from her appearance in earlier videos, was always in command of her audience – even if not in command of her technical production. There were minor glitches repeated throughout the show that would have thrown most artists off. Yet, Hall used each instance for comedic effect which kept her production moving even when her sound and video would stop.
The production for the Leslie and the Lys should had dramatically increased since Hall’s last appearance at the DC9 in 2008 (for one, the Lys themselves were no longer relegated to performing and working the merch table), but it still kept its homemade, low-budget feel that makes the audience feel as if they are experiencing something underground and unique. A spinning wooden platform with an accompaning fog machine; a climbing harnesses strapped to a duct-taped PVC pipe frame, and meters of gold lamé were all used to visually stimulate the show.
Hall herself performed most of her selections from muscle memory. For a show that has the (purposeful) appearance of being thrown together, her execution on stage is precise. Producing her own albums, Hall’s body of work has now grown to the point where she can’t perform all of her songs in a single set, or even only all of her popular songs. But, that helps Hall keep her audience hungry and feeds her popularity as she continues to grow far beyond lines that confine the fame of most Internet celebrities.