Death Grips (USA)

Max Watts Brisbane, Friday the 4th of August 2017

I am only a recent listener of Death Grips. It all started early last year through a period of mental upheaval where I saw less of the world’s possibility and more of the harsh reality. The sharp, the coarse and the impatient. A lot of anger was revealed to me, some of it within. I never feel like music can set a tone, only suit it. Falling out of sync later in the year was yet to come. Nothing to be ashamed of, the skidding intensity of MC Ride, Zach Hill and Andy Morin made for a perfect backing track to the illusion.

Death Grips is a challenge to describe to anyone who hasn’t heard them. They’re many things I cherish in music. Confidence. Message. Surprise. Convergence. Precision Hardcore Electronic Hip-Hop. If you haven’t listened to them, start with their gold-class mixtape Exmilitary and then explore from there.

Security in all things is on the rise and one thing on everyone’s lips before and after the show was the patting down of every single person entering. With a capacity of 1,200 Max Watts (formerly known as The Hi-Fi) made for a good physical venue. A line that extends up an alleyway like a cute game of snake on a Nokia phone was the least of my worries. Staff from the venue seemed surprised at the extra measures but the two or three obvious Americans part of the band’s entourage were steadfast. Stories of past shows including a legendary set at the 2013 Big Day Out made me think this would be an intense audience. Though the more I looked at the line the less I felt that. Young men (overwhelmingly) between 18 and 25 years old wearing new clothing were everywhere you looked. Designer hoodies and fresh haircuts were obvious.

The venue rumbled at any new sign on stage. Some had been there since 8pm, for a 10pm start. Delays for people still entering pushed this to 10.30pm sharp, and the excitement was dangerously high.

A bright entry by Andy Morin (engineer), MC Ride (vocals) & Zach Hill (drums)

The set-list was a round of classics and newer tracks, but their very recent release Steroids (Crouching Tiger Hidden Gabber) had no place. Tracks like No Love, Get Got, I’ve Seen Footage and The Fever (Aye Aye) got the greatest movements from the crowd. It was easy to join the brilliant growl of the lyrics, much to the chagrin of my vocal chords the next morning. The percussion of the evening was sublime. I doubt any of Hill’s drumming even needed to be re-amplified, yet it kept throbbing pace with the rigid twists of Morin’s electrical storm.

Throughout I felt myself grinning like a baby, in elation that such norm shattering sounds were happening here in Brisbane, with locals surrounding me. I stood about halfway back with plenty of other enthusiasts — only willing to be spectators compared to the cyclone of the mosh pit ahead of us. Focusing on the mosh was to waste your eyes for the performance onstage, but you could feel its intensity. Converts walking past who had clearly been within.

For those who haven’t experienced a cyclone, it’s a loud, wet jarring system of movement. One you either need to become a part of quickly, or watch from afar. I’d giggle slightly as I saw many try and wander back in with drinks in both hands, all with a drink of sweat filling their hair. They knew exactly what they were venturing back into. A hoodie made its way across the crowd once, and a couple of drinks flipped up to the lighting rig and across MC Ride’s already shining bare torso. Objects and liquid flying around, nothing stopped the show. Applause breaks were non-existent, but I felt the need to clap a few times with the minority. There wasn’t the time — I don’t remember stopping to breathe, only to check that I was really there.

I felt that the sound of the speakers, or maybe the acoustics of the venue groaned around the suspense and excitement of the crowd. Some hardcore fans agreed with me that MC Ride sounded muffled at times next to such intense drumming and crazed electrical noises. Maybe Max Watts will need to upgrade to keep with the great pace of innovation here.

No encore was played and this was a bit jarring to the audience, but none was needed. They’re off for two shows in Melbourne over this weekend. The three burning objects onstage did not stop for a full hour. I can only hope they got the sleep they had earnt, and that they come back to Brisbane again soon.