Review: Death Grips spark primal furor at First Avenue

Death Grips at a previous show

Death Grips at a previous show

Good or bad, it says a lot about a band when people shell out $20 a ticket and wait in lines around the block despite said band’s reputation for canceling or just never showing up. And for those who gambled their Saturday night at First Avenue, Death Grips did not disappoint.

The pre-show anxiety — the question of whether or not they’d show, whether or not you were wasting an hour of your life and $7 on a drink — must have contributed something to the following  bacchanalia. When the screen raised and the band did indeed take the stage, every person in the sold-out Mainroom crowd swarmed forward, their uncertainty relieved, and reveled in the unspeakable fervor on display with all the typical fanfare of this kind of show: screaming, moshing, spraying beer, crowd-surfing, etc. But it was all done with an atypical zest reserved only for bands in certain possession of the right stuff, or perhaps only ever inspired by them.

Led by frontman MC Ride (a.k.a. Stefan Burnett), Death Grips exceeded all intensity radiating from the floor-wide pit, whose victims were many. They tore through already-frenetic numbers at unhinged speeds, counterbalancing their slower songs with the kind of ancient, throbbing power that shakes the bones and boils the viscera. With staging stripped bare, the band silhouetted by dark red lights and a faint mist, and vox dropped down, it was easy to imagine that if there were a hell, this is what would be playing at the gates. Abandon all hope of hearing again, ye who enter here.

As is true of the best live shows, this was something not only heard, but felt in the marrow (no doubt aided by Zach Hill's pummeling drum work). It’s something primal, something a band cannot fake. And when that experience is relayed at its purest, it helps us remember why, with the advent of torrenting and the like, we’ll wait in line, buy overpriced drinks, and buy tickets at a premium to see the right band.

Say what you will about Death Grips — when they do play a show, they absolutely kill it.