I was hanging at the back of the room, minding my own business. I was just passing the time when… it begun. It was loud and distorted but I couldn’t pick if it was simply the thing itself or if it was my mind trying to block out what was assaulting senses. I felt like I was being absorbed in a nightmarish sonic hellfire of pain and suffering that engulfed every fibre of my being. It was horrible. It was a pain I would never wish upon any other soul, not even my enemies. I wanted it to stop, I wanted it to end and I wanted it to leave me alone for good. Even if that meant my death. Then, the Corey Feldman song that my Deezer stream had shuffled onto ended and I realised I was gonna be late for Death Grips sold out show at Melbourne’s Prince Bandroom if I didn’t leave now.
I rocked up just after (the heavily security surrounded) doors opened to the Prince Bandroom, precisely two hours before the experimental/industrial hip-hop/rap group that is Death Grips (best way I can describe them, really) were set to take the stage. I mean, I’m coming along as a writer for a review, I should be there the whole time from when doors open, right? Right! Anyway, this was quite a slog to deal with early on. For you see, there was no opening act or support band for the night; just Death Grips. So that meant prior to the one and only band’s set, punters just got some weird drums and synths playing through the PA for around two hours. Funnily enough, that’s basically just a Death Grips album minus all of MC Ride’s raw yelling, primal screaming and general anger. In all honesty, such sounds were hard to clearly make out due to everyone in the packed out venue anxiously talking loudly as they waited for the esteemed trio’s set to start. To help pass the time, I made conversation with a friend and my brother/editor, as well as a random young man (who may or not have been tripping on MD) about how great mumble rap is and how inspiring the cello-blowing king himself Lil Yachty is to pass the time. Before I knew it, the PA’s output went silent, the lights went down, and the three figures that make up Death Grips walked onto the stage to a masterful roar of deep adoration.
Death Grips kicked-off their hour long set with ‘Whatever I Want (Fuck Who’s Watching)’ to mass hysteria within the St. Kilda venue as everyone finally got to indulge in and be a part of their favourite band and internet meme. The venue literally shook like a white girl on Tumblr reading Doctor Who fan fiction underneath the ear-carving bass and pounding beats of newer tracks like ‘Bubbles Buried in This Jungle’ and the ludicrous ‘Hot Head’, as well as other staples like ‘Inanimate Sensation‘, ‘The Fever (Aye Aye)‘ and ‘I Break Mirrors With My Face In The United States‘. The intense and monstrous grooves laid down by impressive drummer Zach Hill got people moving and grooving down on the dance-floor whilst a track such as ‘No Love’ – easily one of the night’s standouts – are seemingly beat less and filled with punctuated bass and synth stabs and harsh noise; leaving the crowd standing around with no idea how to move except stand and watch an Anthony Fantano wet dream occur in real life before them.
One of my favourite songs of the night was easily ‘Giving Bad People Good Ideas’ (the opening track from their solid 2016 LP, ‘Bottomless Pit‘) because the transition from the sampled singing intro into the relentless blast beat section was beautiful, intense, and hilarious. Honest to God, it was everything that I have ever wanted Death Grips live to be. It also perfectly summed up Death Grips sound so poignantly because for half a second you almost think it’s going to be normal, then it suddenly becomes an all-out assault on your senses and you realise there’s no turning back from the wall of sound that encases you from end to end.
Honourable mentions from Death Grips‘ loud-as-fuck performance go out to: the banger that is ‘Spikes’, oldies like ‘I’ve Seen Footage‘ (which got some real bounce going) and ‘Get Got‘, as well as the mouth full track, ‘You Might Think He Loves You for Your Money but I Know What He Really Loves You for It’s Your Brand New Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat’. All of which were an equal mix of disorientating and deliriously good fun. However, with the sole exception of the obvious Death Grips song that we’ll get to later on, there was sadly no other material featured from 2011’s mixtape, ‘Exmilitary‘. [Seriously, not even ‘Takyon’ (Death Yon)’? I am forsaken – Editor].
One thing about tonight’s show was that it lasted exactly 57-minutes and though that may seem short to some, you have to know that it also contained no pass uses whatsoever. There was never a single second of silence or breath between their 17-song set as they beat matched and blended their entire set into one consistent, fully digestible experience. Which is an impressive and brilliant feat as it means that all the energy they excerpted never once had a moment to stop and catch its breath. Not even for the band to acknowledge or thank the wall-to-wall crammed attendees. (Some may see that as rude or disingenuous, but I see it as part of the DG package). Death Grips‘ set really was equivalent to a snowball rolling down a hill, just continuously gaining momentum… until it eventually gets hit by a motherfucking guillotine, baby. Because of fucking course, Death Grips closed out their first sold out Melbourne show with ‘Guillotine (It Goes Yah)‘ – possibly the greatest meme of the past ten years if you don’t like bees, guerrillas or ogres. The crowd swooned and shouted the lyrics of this career favourite track right back at frontman MC Ride (real name Stefan Burnett) throughout. Once the track concluded, the three-piece left us looking at their gorgeous behinds as they exited the stage without a single word or “thank you”, to head to what I can only assume was a green room containing a plethora of women and drugs and women on drugs. And look, in all honesty – all memes and bullshit aside – it was a great show.
Death Grips perform with a level of intensity and energy that’s relatively unmatched by most of their contemporaries. MC Ride was already a mass ball of sweat and muscle before the show even fuckin’ began whilst drummer Zach Hill’s area of stage left just seemed like a really dark and angry place to be. If you were to go over and stand next to him and his kit, not only would you get hit by his ferocious stick-wielding arms but you would also feel an intense sadness and darkness like you’ve never felt before. All your painful memories and most kept-up emotions would be pushed to the forefront of your mind and you’d be forced to be as angry as Zach himself. At least, I assume so.
As for DJ/keyboardist/sampler/recording engineer Andy Morin, the guy looked fiendishly mad as he gripped his desk upon which his MacBook Pro (sell out, I tell ya) and sampler sat. I’m not sure what he was exactly doing as there was an array of sounds bombarding us that were just too complex or layered to be played or triggered individually and some elements had to be on a backing track. Or maybe, just maybe, Morin’s somehow a fucking tech-God and can play and trigger that many distorted synths and Bjork and Serena Williams samples at once with only his two mortal hands. My money’s on the latter, though. Still, his presence really added to the atmosphere and energy of a Death Grips show and without him, things would feel odd or at least, it’d be lacking.
As I stood listening to these three… musicians perform for me and a few other hundred punters I asked myself this: “what horrible things must a man go through in order to create such music?” As for the frontman, I can only imagine the things that MC Ride must have seen, done or heard in order to get him to such a state of anger and pain. Yet we must admire him for he is here before us, pouring out his heart and soul for the world and our enjoyment. We must thank him. For he has sacrificed himself a normal life in order to give us… this.
What I think to myself as I leave the venue – a place where I’d just arguably witnessed art in its truest forms – and step out into the bitterly cold night air of St. Kilda with ocean waves crashing gently in the backdrop of soft moonlight broken up by the swaying trees caught in a breeze that danced across the Melbourne skyline was simply this: I’ve seen the literal dick of one of those dudes who just played.
PC: Bree Wallace, who battled well against the venue’s sub par lighting that night.