Though they’re quite possibly the most talked about band around while avoiding both the media and performing arena or stadium shows, Death Grips have been nothing short of a complex and genial trio in music. With the band returning to Australia for their first headline tour ever after their 2013 Big Day Out appearance, Death Grips managed to have the entire Aussie leg sold out in just two hours. So, I went ahead and caught the Californian Industrial hip-hop trio at the first Melbourne show at the Prince Bandroom to see what was about to go down.
It didn’t particularly surprise me that Death Grips had no support act for the show, as they’ve always been the reserved type on and off-stage. After two hours of nonstop Beastie Boys music playing in the background and waiting for something to happen, the audience chanted “Deeeeeeath Grips, YUH!” several times, as many expected the group to be on by 9 pm. Half an hour later, without a dramatic introduction or warning, Death Grips found their way onto the stage and unleashed a cerebral high of abrasiveness and electronic distortion in the most menacing and formidable way possible.
From one side of the room to the other, I saw nothing but extreme, intense and rapid movement from every patron. I saw people going in and out of the main pit with blood dripping from their noses or at the least, a facial expression that said it was impossible to describe what they were witnessing right before their eyes. No matter the song Death Grips would execute, whether it be ‘Inanimate Sensation,’ ‘Hot Head,’ ‘System Blower,’ ‘I’ve Seen Footage’ or ‘Come Up and Get Me,’ the three-piece performed their setlist with a real “fuck you” personality, while maintaining their pioneering virtuosity proficiently without even taking a one-second breather in between songs.
Frontman MC Ride’s aggressive yet ethereal essence was beyond contagious, as his dominant artistry orchestrated the entirety of the Prince Bandroom while he basked in the darkness onstage along with his bandmates. Hearing studio recordings of their material is one thing, but to actually see and hear what they can do in the flesh is a much more imaginative, progressive and unthinkable process that is impossible to describe.
As one who doesn’t pay as much attention to how drums sound in a studio or live environment, Zach Hill’s drumming was much more spirited, powerful and extraordinary than I would normally anticipate. With their drums sounding really digital, but lively in a recorded track, Hill’s live percussion was tuned down to a perfect and durable setting that put every other live drum set to complete shame. Along with Andy Morin’s use of live sampling, the man would throw his head all around while guiding the crowd into a state of chaos and enthusiasm as each song went by.
While only a one hour set, this was undeniably the most accurate example of quality over quantity in a live atmosphere. While not being a Metal or rock band, Death Grips can make their moshpit as dangerous and vibrant as a five-day camping festival in Europe. There are some amazing shows I’ve seen in the twelve years I’ve spent going to countless gigs, but this was hands down the most innovative, pulsating and enthralling experience I’ve had in my life, and that’s definitely not me exaggerating. Being amazed by listening to their work from Exmilitary all the way up to Bottomless Pit is one thing, but to actually encounter Death Grips in a live setting is one of the most captivating and effervescent moments that one can come across in their life.