Death Grips made their way down to Houston for their tour supporting their latest album The Powers that B. If you hadn’t heard, the show sold out in just a couple of days. Death Grips went through a time last year where they didn’t show up to their scheduled gigs; they weren’t even in the city..
All that awaited eager fans at the venues were a child’s learning drum kit, Death Grips music being played on a CD through speakers, and a suicide note being projected onto the stage. That was the show. That was the time Death Grips thought that the ground wasn’t worthy enough for it to be stepped on by them. (Have they truly gotten over that mindset?) Then, they “broke up.” I don’t even want to talk about that because it was such a cheap PR move; it can make me sick thinking about it, and I’m not in the mood to down a Dramamine. The fact that the show sold out with no guarantee that they would show shows the pull and impact of this band though. Did people buy tickets because of the controversy surrounding the band or because they genuinely enjoy them? I should have asked fans while waiting in line.
Before doors opened, 15 minutes late (might I add), the crowd was separated by gender. Guys on the right and girls on the left to be patted down before entering. For a sold-out show, only 15 girls showed up by the time doors opened–the rest were guys. That was the most skewed bell curve I ever mentally plotted. What exactly was the pat down for? This only made me fear for the show. How bad does it get in there? Do people stab others as MC Ride screams into your ear? Do people sneak in fireworks to set off during “Get Got”? These were the questions going through my head that never got answered. To be fair, I didn’t ask them out loud.
Once inside, everyone eagerly awaited the trio to hit the stage. No opener was scheduled for the night, so Death Grips was set to go on at 9:30 PM. Waiting until 9:30 came was honestly nerve wracking. You know that feeling you get when a roller coaster is about to take off? Fear and excitement but mostly fear? That’s what I felt. I mentioned I was scared to someone I had met in line, and the guy in front of me looked back, stared at me dead in the eye, and said, “you’re not the only one.” That was the closest thing to sympathy I got that night.
- Of course because Death Grips is Death Grips, the show didn’t start at 9:30. Why would it? Punctuality is nothing but a suggestion to them just like speed limits and contracts, I bet. The show started at 10:05. Zach Hill, Andy Morin, and Stefan Burnett (AKA MC Ride) all came out to the roars of a sold out Fitzgerald’s. Burnett looked to the crazily adoring fans with this out-of-character doe-eye look, but then I quickly realized this doe—buck, really—was rabid. That millisecond of emotion I saw in his eyes was gone as soon as Hill and Morin began playing the first song. The show suddenly became a survival challenge as Burnett started performing. The guy in front of me had his arms flailed out as if he was a soaring eagle in the sky or something who constantly kept hitting me as he mediocrely tried to swing them on tempo. The guy behind me was a shaker: he shook his whole body to the beat, or at least he tried, and it felt more like a seizure, albeit, I’ve seen epileptics with more rhythm in their shakes than him. I truly tried my best to be a trooper and hold it out for the whole show, but I just can’t deal with sweaty guys thinking it is okay to lay their arms across the top of my head or have a guy pull my hair as he crowd surfs. I can’t subject myself to such discomfort and try to convince myself I had a great time. Trust me, I’ve been to plenty of shows where crowds are crazy. I was next to a guy who got stabbed once at a Foals concert, okay? I endured plenty mosh pits and crowd surfing at shows.. I lived through being front row at a Lana Del Rey concert while 14-year-old boys pushed against me to try and touch her. You try living through that! None of the crazy concert stuff is new to me, but this was next level. This was a bad challenge on Fear Factor.
I stayed until “Turned Off,” the 7th song on the setlist, and then decided to catch the show from the balcony. This was more my style. I can happily enjoy the show without having an off-beat pseudo-epileptic or a sweaty guy hitting me every 4 seconds as he tries to show off that he can keep a beat but fails miserably. I comfortably sat and watched the remainder of the show from the balcony and truly appreciated the band more. The band obviously has an abrasive stage presence to it, and I couldn’t help but admire the drumming skills of Zach Hill being matched by the keyboard playing of Andy Morin all drowned by the unintelligible rapping of MC Ride. MC Ride radiates of musical passion onstage. He draws you in with his flailing and jumping as he screams and raps and drowns the crowd in his sweat. Death Grips is a 4D-interactive-experience where you and the band become one entity. All of you share mutual sweat, screams, and pain throughout the show, and maybe those are three criterion that make a Death Grips show so fascinating and highly popular.
The night ended with “I Want It I Need It (Death Heated).” Once again, because Death Grips is Death Grips, MC Ride ended the show with a mic drop accompanied by Zach Hill matching that amazingly cool move by dropping his drum sticks. They exited the stage and didn’t come back for an encore. I wasn’t expecting one; they’re Death Grips–why would they?
After the show, I felt conflicted. Did I like the show? Did the crowd just ruin it for me? Is my skinny, little frail body the wrong type of body to have in order to be a fan of Death Grips? Again, I didn’t ask these questions out loud, so I didn’t get any answers. I still feel conflicted, to be honest. I don’t know what to make of this show. I tried to make this neutral, but I don’t think it came off that way, so I will explicitly say it: this review is neutral. I just have very strong opinions about other things.
There’s one thing I know for sure: the world needs to get a grip when it comes to Death Grips. The scene that revolves around them is mental. Are they groundbreaking? Not really. Do they make good music? Sure, to some. I love their recorded stuff. Is the hype around their shows justifiable? Still need more data. Should they feel like they’re too good for this Earth? Hell no.
What is it about Death Grips that made us rush to Fitzgerald’s on a Friday night to get bruised ribs and packed in a 90-degree room for 2 hours? For the love of the music or to see a controversial, well-PR’d band play a show before they announce their second “break up” to keep their “image” up? If you’re doing it for the love of music, then make this city proud and see B L A C K I E instead.
By Diego Bermejo