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I Watched Death Grips Perform Twice in Five Days and Lived To Tell My Story

This article was originally published on Respect My Region

Have you ever woken up from a nightmare and instantly had the urge to fall right back in?

That was my week in a nutshell. Attending a Death Grips concert comes with an unwritten disclaimer: “you get exactly what you signed up for.” The implications of this should be clear if you’ve listened to even one song by the trio, because it’s impossible for their material to translate into anything even remotely breezy when recreated on stage.

During the first of two shows in Los Angeles, the crowd turned into one giant mosh pit approximately three seconds into the opening song. People from the front who weren’t with it immediately started working their way back, trading places with the maniacs who came specifically to butt heads (literally, not figurately). And the front pretty much stayed like that throughout the entire set, which, by the way, comprised almost thirty tracks and spanned a full ninety minutes.

This was undoubtedly the most lawless show I’ve ever been to, but not in a concerning way. Contrarily, it demonstrated why it’s healthy for people to have a medium to channel their frustrations. Think of it like those ramen spots that offer spice levels on a scale for us to pick from; similarly, the closer you were to the stage, the more pushback (literally, not figuratively) you got from those around you. You could simply choose to stand and watch from the balcony if the physical offerings of the Death Grips experience didn’t appeal to you.

The atmosphere was violent but not hostile, just like the music. It was really just an enormous collision of varying personalities and characters that had one thing in common: a proclivity for disruption that felt all too human despite its animalistic manifestation.

When I glanced across the crowd, I found it impossible to identify: full punk and goth attires; people dressed like the Joker or just regular clowns; women in suits and men in dresses; Miley Cyrus and Stevie Wonder t-shirts; I saw denim, flannel and leather; hair dyed in every color on the ROYGBIV spectrum; some people had even stripped down to their underwear from being soaked in sweat.

I witnessed all of this on Wednesday (May 17) at the Hollywood Palladium, and despite getting hit so hard in the head that I lost my balance, I went back for seconds the following Sunday (May 21).

Some of the greatest ideas fall from the sky, but the inspiration for Death Grips crawled right up from hell. You can literally see it — their stage setup is just an MC, keyboardist and drummer, all cloaked in a sheet of red light.

Turns out the devil comes in threes.

I don’t think people realize what a stronghold Stefan Burnett aka MC Ride has on rulebreakers — he’s inspired some of the most creative acts in punk, rock and hip-hop, from Kasabian to Tyler, the Creator to David Bowie. I don’t think people realize that Zach Hill is one the most explosive, high-energy drummers alive — he’s shredded from just outright assaulting his kit. I don’t think people realize how meticulously Andy Morin curates the gourmet glitches that digitize the product — he induces electricity into the primitive screams and beatings produced by the other two.

“I’m not that fascinated by human achievements,” Burnett said in a now-deleted interview with Pitchfork. “I look more inside, just to myself and what goes on in there … look inside, more than outside.”

This perfectly encapsulates the music Death Grips has released into the world and the type of people they attract in return. That’s why I went back, and I’d do it again. I’d do it over and over again if they played in LA every week. I might even stop working out or going to therapy … or maybe I’d need to go to therapy more often, who knows?

I got hit in the head and hugged by the same person. I have bruises on my arm. I fell down a few times. My beer got crushed up against my torso. Someone standing right next to me in the pit threw up all over the floor. In fact, the entire pit smelled like sweat and piss.

Yet, I would’ve been utterly disappointed if it were any different.


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