Death Grips at 7th Street Entry, 11/21/12
Photo by Erik Hess
with Mykki Blanco
7th Street Entry, Minneapolis
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
There were a few things learned at the sold out show from polarizing punk-rap outfit Death Grips at the Entry Wednesday night. The aggressive, brutal nature of their songs comes off as oddly charming in a live setting; the overall menace softened ever so slightly by the fact that they are being performed by real human beings; Zach Hill is possibly the most intense drummer on the planet, he didn't stop the quasi-tribal drumming for more than just a few seconds at a time for the entire 40-minute set; Stefan "MC Ride" Burnett might have kerosene coursing through his veins.
Upon taking the stage, both MC Ride and Hill stripped off their T-shirts and opened with "Come Up and Get Me" from their new No Love Deep Web, which was released under a cloud of controversy that caused Epic to drop them from the label. In less than a minute, a couple of showgoers were crowd-surfing -- something rarely, if ever, seen at the Entry. From there the show did not stop its fevered, frenetic pace for the duration. Songs bled into one another, differentiated only by Hill's slight tempo changes and the backing track changing from one noisy, blurry concoction to another. "Get Got" and "Blackjack" from The Money Store, released this past spring, followed in similarly confrontational fashion and the element of very real danger seemed to wax and wane with every given note along the way.
Would MC Ride, who was right at the edge of the stage for the entire show, actually jump into the crowd? If so, would a fight break out? If not, would a fight break out? Would a fight break out regardless? It turns out the answer to all of those questions was "No," thankfully, but the crowd was feeding off of Ride's intensity and the confrontational stance he held for much of the show -- he stood mere inches from the people closest to stage, squared off, breathing heavily, constantly throwing his arms wildly above his head -- made those questions endlessly swirl and added to the show's overall power, as well.
Photos by Erik Hess
The tension had slowly ratcheted it's way up and as they got to "Guillotine," arguably their best-known song and a "hit" of sorts, the cheering crowd exploded, the dancing, jumping, fist pumping and crowd-surfing all happening at once; the occasional beer being sprayed into the air. By then MC Ride had complete control of the crowd, the 90-mph-in-first-gear nature of their songs had become normal to everyone in attendance and it seemed the crowd relaxed (but only a bit) as the set lurched forward with "Lord of the Game" and "No Love," sweat flying in every direction from both the crowd and the band; while it appeared a mini-earthquake was happening just below the floor of the Entry. "I've Seen Footage," with its thunderous drum beat and venomous vocals began the night's denouement, the set ending with "Lock Your Doors" and a curt "Thank you" from MC Ride before they exited the stage.
By the end, however, there were just as many questions, if not more, than facts that had (maybe) been learned. Were they really as volatile as their recorded material suggests? How badly do Zach Hill's arms hurt at the end of a show? Is this real catharsis or a sham? And finally, how is this palatable to so many people? The last one shall possibly forever remain a mystery but a great mystery nonetheless. Everything was overdriven; there was nothing that even remotely resembled a melody in any of the songs, but they tappped into something primal about simply being human. It was likely that few people, if any, felt intellectually stimulated by the end of Wednesday's show, but you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who wouldn't claim they felt more alive than they had in weeks.
Photos by Erik Hess
Critic's Bias: I love Death Grips' recorded material but was fearful that it would translate poorly to a live setting. However, I was blown away by how engaging it became in the translation.
The Crowd: One of the weirdest mixes of people I have ever seen at a show.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Is this guy [MC Ride], like, a criminal in real life? I don't get it."
Notebook Dump: The songs flowing into one another is weird, but somehow unsurprising.
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