July 17, 2015
Do you ever wish you could experience a concert through someone else’s perspective? There’s this idea in some works of science fiction, Rant and Eclipse Phase being two examples, that in the future we’ll all have computers in our brain and will able to record not just what we see and hear, but what we feel.
The idea is that you’ll be able to experience things that you personally couldn’t experience; climbing Everest or floating in space or punching Chris Brown in the mouth, for example. That’s neat and all, but what I find fascinating about this idea is the potential to see how others' takes on media differ from my own.
This is a roundabout way of saying that I don’t understand the passion that fans of Death Grips have for the band.
The moment the band took the stage, the fans surged forward, and those standing at the previously crowded edges of the floor at Fitz suddenly had elbow room as the hardcores did their best to overflow the dance floor. Those at the very front looked like they were in the middle of a religious awakening, one step removed from speaking in tongues, while those in the middle were a perpetual-motion machine of slam dancing.
If you’re the type who goes to a lot of concerts, you know that at your average show, especially your average “buzz” band show, you’re going to get a lot of casuals there to maybe hear the big single or just to see what the fuss is all about. This was not like that. This was a show that was 90 percent people who were there to get into the thick of it; the rest were people who like the band but just couldn’t hang, or plus-ones out on the balcony waiting for the chaos to end.
The band kept things simple and focused on the music. Backlit by red lights, with fog being pumped in constantly and Fitz being hotter than I can ever remember, it was like they were trying to evoke hell on Earth. The reality was that it was more like being in a really aggressive sauna.
Death Grips sounded fine. Zach Hill is an insanely talented drummer. MC Ride has charisma and some dance moves. Andy Morin seemed to be having a really good time. I’m not sure that any of it was intimidating or violent (seriously, who wrote their Wikipedia article?) but hey, the kids liked it.
So let’s circle back to the whole passion thing.
Standing there watching the mayhem, I couldn’t help but wonder what a Death Grips set at Fun Fun Fun Fest would have looked like, or how the sets opening for Nine Inch Nails would have gone. It’s easy to look like you’re putting on the best show in the world when you’re playing to those who love you unconditionally. It might actually be interesting to see if anything would be different outside of their element.
I’m sincerely, non-condescendingly happy that there are people out there that love Death Grips. I’m happy for anyone that finds a band that they truly love. It’s fun to watch them being completely into the show, which is good, because the band themselves aren’t particularly interesting to watch unless you’re a drum nerd. I don't get it, but I'm glad someone does.
I can describe a Death Grips show to you: it’s flesh and motion and sweat and fog and noise and motion and sweat and rumbling in your bones and ringing in your ears and motion and sweat and motion and sweat. But I can’t tell you what a Death Grips show feels like. And I feel like that’s more important than intensity.
But not every show has to be for everyone. And that’s important to remember too.
Personal Bias: If you think that it’s wack that the Houston Press reviewed this show, I’m not going to fault you for that. I point you to Stephan’s excellent Death Grips takedown that ran on Friday and say that in broad strokes I’m totally on board with what he’s saying, but it would be disingenuous of me to be “Fuck Death Grips” when I love Yeezus, another work that clearly has B L A C K I E’s DNA in it. Maybe that makes me a traitor to Houston music. I don’t know.
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The Crowd: I watched a guy walking around mid-show who looked completely shell-shocked. He was missing a shoe and was soaked in sweat from head to sock. Even then he couldn’t stop moving his head to the music.
Overheard in the Crowd: “No, it’s the line to the restroom!” said someone in the line outside of Fitz to the guy who felt the need to ask if it was in fact the line to get in to see Death Grips.
Random Notebook Dump: The guy who gave me the pat-down to get into the show — oops, sorry to derail the random notebook dump, because I didn’t realize I was going to see a show at House of Blues — unintentionally tickled me. So that was weird.
Random Notebook Dump 2: You know that feeling of alienation at a show and wondering what everyone else is feeling? It scales well. I felt the exact same thing when I saw Garth Brooks a few weeks ago.