Death Grips Live Review (HMV Forum, London. 2/5/13)

If ATP couldn’t get enough of my respect already for putting on great events, they somehow squeezed some more out of me with this. Death Grips, anyone who follows this review blog should know, is a band who has done nothing wrong in my books and has been consistently blasted via my laptop, record player and iPod ever since “Exmilitary” came out. After unfortunately missing their previous shows/tours for various reasons, I made this particular gig in London a mission that could not be failed.

The first thing I noticed as soon as I walked in at the venue’s opening time was the variety of the audience. As expected, there were more than a few metalheads there and a good number of “hipsters” (other peoples’ word, not mine), but there were also a couple of crust fans there too, something I did not expect at all. There’s probably more stereotypes I just paid no attention to or didn’t see, but it was cool to see people of all different music tastes to come together for the love of one band. Death Grips may divide a lot of people in the hip-hop community, but on the broader horizon they bring a lot more together.

So the one and only support band of the night, The Wytches, stepped onstage a pretty long time after the doors open (as someone who generally doesn’t mind reggae, the constant instrumental loop in the time between was torture after a while), and came on to admittedly skeptical applause. Sporting some backing visuals via a projector, the stage was pretty dark for most of their set, which was suitable. Up until the point when the band kicked into their set, I had absolutely no idea what to expect – I had a rough guess that it would be some standard indie band… and I was gladly surprised.

The Wytches turned out to be a weird hybrid of many things: the delivery and performance of Nirvana, the musical style of The White Stripes and a hint of The Cure lyrically. Although at times, mostly lyrically, it felt a little melodramatic, it sort of made sense with the real hungover heartbreak vibe of it all. There was plenty of jarring guitar and some nice rocking grooves to sway the crowd into a more heartfelt applause at the end of each song, and it was perhaps the finishing two minutes that really turned the tide – guitarist and vocalist Kristian Bale just hammers the strings and swings his guitar around as if he were Kurt Cobain resurrected, while bassist Dan Rumsey works himself into a frenzy before throwing his bass onto the ground. The whole thing garnered a nice thick layer of intensity that any band supporting Death Grips would NEED to pull off such a task, and left the stage with a good roar from the crowd. Success.

Shortly after, the stage is an absolute fogfest after the smoke machines are turned on full blast and the only thing on stage is Flatlanders’ set-up, which is almost laughable when left on the otherwise empty stage. However, when the presence of Death Grips comes storming on, the whole venue feels a whole lot smaller and even more intimate than you thought five minutes before. The duo (Zach Hill unable to make it) look ready to kill, especially MC Ride as he jolts and nods intensely at the crowd, as if to attack it any second. Flatlander starts Lost Boys, and the crowd instantly heaves forward (which never lets up until the band walks off).

Throughout the set, MC Ride alternates between simply rapping/shouting, jolting and convulsing as if possessed and caressing (or should I just be honest: masturbating) the mic – which should be boring after two or three songs, but isn’t! The whole experience of seeing MC Ride perform in itself is gripping, let alone the music that he and Flatlander are pushing out at the time. Flatlander is usually bobbing through the set, but at times more aggressively. They transcend through songs flawlessly and never stop for one second; which makes you wonder how in the fuck MC Ride keeps up with it all. They also play (pretty much) all the fan favourites: Guillotine, Get Got, System Blower, I’ve Seen Footage and a couple more. They played for little under an hour, but it only felt like 30 minutes.

They closed the set pretty abruptly, MC Ride dropping his mic as soon as his part is done in Lock Your Doors and Flatlander stays on only a short time after to leave his synths/laptop emit a drone as he walks off stage too. While people complained (and I did hear them) about the lack of interaction through their set, it would’ve only ruined the meaning and intensity of their music – who wants to hear MC Ride being polite and thanking the crowd after punishing it with No Love?

Death Grips were just perfect and were even better than I thought they would be – even without Zach Hill, I didn’t feel ‘conned’ in any way and was fulfilled to say the least (although I can only imagine how much more intense it would be with Hill). Now I sit here feeling like someone has taken a sledgehammer to my chest after being so squashed against the front barrier.

If you ever get the opportunity to see Death Grips, then do so, you will not regret it!

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