"...the vulnerability and unpredictability of Death Grips is liberating and enlivening."
A curious mood can be felt before one even enters the venue for Death Grips' first ever Brisbane performance.
Security measures are tighter than usual, with thorough pat-downs put in place, and the fact that there's still quite a significant line mere minutes before the band are due to commence builds on the preceding tension. Inside, the mania is teetering on boiling point. No supports are scheduled, but a selection of tracks played at near-concert volume serve to rile things up further. The Beastie Boys' (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party) drives the crowd wilder than your typical headliner, but tonight's headliners are about the farthest thing from typical and so is their obsessive fanbase. They're 25 minutes late. Given the band's infamous history, every passing minute brings with it an added measure of tension, but thankfully this night is not destined to become one of those fan horror-stories. Death Grips hit the stage full throttle, erupting into Whatever I Want (Fuck Who's Watching) with the kind of rapturous fury that is rarely even spoken about, let alone experienced. A palpable urgency permeates the entire space and the room goes absolutely batshit.
They charge on through Bubbles Buried In This Jungle, Get Got, and System Blower, with no sign of the intensity letting up in the least bit. They favour their debut, The Money Store, and their latest, Bottomless Pit, throughout, but keep the set somewhat balanced with at least a couple off each album. The sound is really not too crisp, but if anything this intensifies the tactility of the songs and their affect. It is said that peripheral vision connects us to tactile feeling and interiority more than focused vision, and tonight seems to prove this true of sound too. This slight veiling of form somewhat reframes things, so that the feeling of the performance becomes the focus and essential point of connection.
The major-label sabotage, the no-shows, the break-up, suddenly it all makes even more sense. For all their creative wit and cultural subterfuge, Death Grips is as much about unbridled energy as anything else, and in the live arena, this becomes most apparent. If the tap is not in full flow then it just wouldn't make sense; for there's no faking this kind of physical sincerity. Zach Hill and Andy Morin violently thrash away at their instruments, while MC Ride cavorts between them, his arms flailing upwards for much of the show. These rambunctious inflations of bodily presence draw equally upon ritualistic mating, combat, and spiritual dances to become an all-embracing, cathartic response to systemic structures of disempowerment; both external and internal. It's as if culture, language, and thought are being deconstructed and regurgitated through a visceral outpouring of primal vitality. Here the body and spirit take some vital ground back from the intellect.
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This is a performance that understands the significance of the danger element within traditions of live music and ritual. In a culture scape where even the most vibrant acts seem a little too safe and measured, the vulnerability and unpredictability of Death Grips is liberating and enlivening. Like the time-honoured initiation ceremonies that enact the transformative process of the death/re-birth cycle, tonight we're summoned through such thresholds. And when the final Guillotine drops, we "all fall down… yuh!"