Die Antwoord at First Avenue, 8/5/12

First Avenue Mainroom
Saturday, August 5, 2012

South African rap group Die Antwoord invaded First Avenue Saturday night, playing their bizarre brand of grimy, dubstep-fueled club tunes to a captive and sold-out audience. The style is referred to as "zef", a statement of rebellion through guttural lyrics and sexual upheaval, all of which has a strong visual element which helped fuel their initial viral popularity.

Rappers Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er and DJ Hi-Tek have starred in a number of startling music videos, inspired by photographer Roger Ballen and seemingly drawing influence from Chris Cunningham and various horror films, and their frenetic music will forever be linked to their shock-schlock aesthetics.

Ninja's prison-doodle tattoos and Yo-Landi's bewitching eroticism, along with DJ Hi-Tek's trademark demon mask, have become an added element to their sound, and their costume changes and background imagery became an inexorable addition to the live show. From the impish Yo-Landi's glowing silver hoodies to Ninja's "Dark Side of the Moon" boxers (which he posed in to applause for a good two minutes), the clothing was a great addition to the clips and fan art that played on the screen behind them. 

Die Antwoord at First Avenue, 8/5/12
Photo by Tony Nelson

The great stage show made for some great people-watching as well, as many members of the audience tried to match the zef by dressing as out-there as the event seemed to warrant. A good mix of rap fans, punks, rave-goers and general freaky folk made it a really fun crowd to be a part of, especially given how amped everyone was the whole time.

Normally, this night would have been devoted to DJ Soviet Panda's dance night Too Much Love; he played opening act instead, which made for a somewhat awkward dance floor initially, as people were divided between attempting to dance as if it were a performance, and standing and waiting for the band as if it were before-show filler. Die Antwoord finally took stage at midnight for what was billed as a late show, with DJ Hi-Tek performing his brazen Mike Tyson routine  to introduce "Fok Julle Naaiers," setting things off on a scrawled-on-the-bathroom-stall start. 

Die Antwoord at First Avenue, 8/5/12
Photo by Tony Nelson

Die Antwoord have said in interviews their biggest responses from crowds in South Africa are simply from swearing, but the First Avenue crowd seemed most elated during the dancey portions of the set. The trio of songs "Baby's On Fire," "I Fink U Freaky," and the instrumental closer "Never Le Nkemise 2" brought the crowd to a fever pitch with wobble bass and piercing synths, creating more of a shock wave than phallic tracks about rubbing one's dick on things that cost a lot of money. Still, the crowd was more consistently fired up than I've seen at most shows and there was rarely a down point. 

Die Antwoord's cartoonish energy kept people dancing and cheering throughout, up through the dramatic exit (all members crouched on the stage in their orange hoodies as the lights went black), and into the encore of "Enter The Ninja". Ninja left with a stage dive and crowd surf, where he asked, entirely in tune with the song, to be thrown back onstage and to have the finger removed from his asshole. The night was marked with this sort of rude goofiness, from Ninja's scuzzy lyrics to Yo-Landi's squeaks and squeals, and their collective stage presence brought the whole thing together as a crazy and buoyant live show. 

Die Antwoord at First Avenue, 8/5/12
Photo by Tony Nelson

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias: I like cartoon boners and Aphex Twin faces, so the videos have always been cool to me. The music is pretty fun too.

The Crowd: Lots of enthusiastic young white people who thought a lot about they were going to wear.

Overheard in the crowd:  The word "Zef" a few times.

Random notebook dump: Some songs from the setlist might be missing because it's apparently really hard to Google the lyrics "Woo woo woo yeah fuckin' shit up flyest bitches".


Folk Julle Naaiers
Wat Pomp
Money And Da Power
Fatty Boom Boom
Rich Bitch
Evil Boy
Baby's On Fire
I Fink U Freeky
Never Le Nkemise 2
Enter The Ninja

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