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Oliver Tree brings his Alone in a Crowd tour to the Aragon Ballroom

James Hetfield is a person who has enjoyed “masculine” excesses throughout his life. It makes sense that Hetfield, Metallica’s chief brute, would willingly brave the remote and cold conditions. Oliver Tree though? Oliver Tree, a pop-punk/EDM comedian from central California, is no more macho than an early-blooming daffodil. With her flamboyant eccentric nature and clothing style, 30-year-old Tree represents the strange joy of spring. It looks like it will fall apart in harsh weather. But during the holiday, Tree visited the bottom of the Earth. He is now the second artist to perform in—wait for it—Antarctica. (Metallica performed there in 2013. It was a gesture of climate solidarity, and most of the 100-person crowd was scientists and climatologists.)

“I shot a documentary while I was there,” Tree says. “This is the greatest movie I’ve ever made, the greatest thing I’ve ever done in cinema, for sure.” Yes, he has a background in guerilla filmmaking. His endeavors, both artistic and non-artistic, are many, as we will soon learn.

Even for a touring musician, Tree gets around. He is a cosmopolitan in every sense of the word and is justifiably proud of having played football. Seven continents. On the first Friday of the new year, Tree arrives from Beijing. It’s nearly midnight local time, and like all mainland internet users, he has to contend with “harsh restrictions” imposed by the CCP, but if Tree is tired, he doesn’t show it; a talkative, almost indefatigable person, perhaps influenced by the iconic sights of the Chinese capital. We are now a few weeks away from Tree’s break in Antarctica. The novelty of seeing up close has not faded.

“You can’t really put it into words,” Tree says. “Being able to go down to this area and see untouched, undamaged land. “As humans, we can’t help but sow destruction wherever we go, so seeing the pristine beauty without human influence was truly something I will never forget.”

Tree spoke with Metallica before heading to the South Pole. Who else can give him advice, that is, speak from experience? But this wasn’t a straightforward rock show. It was part wellness retreat, part festival celebrating the cycle of life. Starting out as a young DJ in Santa Cruz, Tree decided to rekindle his first love: “This was my return to DJing,” he says. “I don’t know if you know this, but I played my last DJ show when I was 17. I opened up for (Dubstep producer) Skrillex. And this new set was such a labor of love. “I worked on it for over 1,000 hours, probably well over that.”

Tree’s second act began in 2013, shortly after he “retired” from recording. Young Oliver traded his life for a wild internet presence. People – including Thom Yorke himself! – He really nailed his opaque, shambling but utterly captivating rendition of Radiohead’s “Karma Police”. After several years of monkey business, during which Tree gained fame as a viral stuntman and fashionista, she made “When I’m Down.” That’s when the adults called. Atlantic Records signed Tree mainly based on the strength of this tune, a sad and disheartened yet highly melodic piano chirp. Co-written by Whethan (real name Eric Snoreck), an unknown high school student in Orland Park, this song has to be considered one of the greatest pop-punk songs known to man.

“When I’m Down” is a “feel bad” anthem. There were others to follow. Tree’s penultimate feature, “Cowboy Tears,” could be billed as a rootsy country pastiche. The newer and much more aromatic “Alone in a Crowd” barely shines; An incurably infatuated dance-pop album made at a time when Oliver was deeply in love. But underneath it all there is a depressive streak that is clearly not fake.

“Most of my music is about alienation, not fitting in, difficulties, separations, separations, whether it be with friends or lovers,” Tree says. “There are a lot of them because that’s when I need music the most in my life, which is when I’m in pain.” Immediately after admitting this, he turns to his new video, a Serbian-made mini-movie that he calls “the next level of brutal additiveism.” Tree prioritizes the visual experience.

“I really stand behind this idea of ​​multimedia,” he says. “You can choose your own adventure. “If you want to focus on the band, if you want to focus on the scene or the visuals, there are different components that will catch your attention.” He goes on to list the attractions to be found on this tour: “Performance art, stand-up comedy, motivational speaking, scooter demonstrations, WWE wrestling, and a little bit of karate.”

For all intents and purposes, Tree is a Californian. (Public records for his full name, Oliver Tree Nickell, show only California addresses.) But he was born in the Chicago area and lived in a nearby suburb until he was 6, he says in an interview with the Tribune. (“I don’t like to talk about it too much,” he says). He says his grandmother will be at the Aragon show. Therefore, the tree is not just any person passing through it. He’s a local kid who’s getting better. As Metallica says, welcome home.

MT Richards is a freelance writer.

Oliver Tree Presents Alone in a Crowd with Fidlar, Jan. 13 at 8 p.m., Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence Ave.; general admission tickets $60.75 (ages 17+) www.livenation.com

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