By Brendan Callaghan
Death Grips’ last and only gig in Ireland was in Whelan’s way back in April of 2013. In the interim period they’ve been dropped by their label, abruptly cancelled numerous tours and shows and released a statement that they had finished as a band only to leak more of their new material a few months later. So, to say that there was a nervous level of anticipation surrounding this gig might be considered something of an understatement
Not only do Death Grips defy musical convention – merging heavy electronica with hip-hop in a way that is more redolent of punk than anything else – but they also seem to take a perverse sort of pleasure in defying the expectations of their fans.
This element of uncertainty coupled with a general lack of information about the band (they very rarely give interviews) has resulted in creating an aura of mystery and intrigue that has no doubt contributed to the dedication of their online following.
Their near-mythic reputation was also the explanation for the tangible and simmering excitement that could be sensed before the performance at The Academy last Thursday.
The support act (if you can even call it that) consisted of an hour and a half of long, deep, modulated drones that would eventually build and crackle into life before diving again into their original loop. Floating from an empty stage over a packed and excited crowd these sounds helped to create a foreboding type of atmosphere that held the audience in a suspended state of expectation.
Inevitably, when the gig eventually started the rapt and wound-up members of the pit pogoed, screamed and fist-pumped manically in a unsustainable burst of enthusiasm – so much so that by the end of the third song some of the more faint-hearted and fool-hardy front row members of the audience had to clamber over barriers in order to escape the madness like civilians in a war zone.
The pace, volume and energy of the performance was relentless as Death Grips front man MC Ride writhed, jumped and rhythmically waved his arms while standing at the very front of the stage, looming over the heaving pit in a manner that seemed more like an uncontrolled reaction to the energy of the crowd as opposed to any sort of attempt at showmanship.
Backed up by equally high-energy performances from virtuoso drummer Zach Hill and Andy Morin (aka Flatlander) who basically supplies every other sound that doesn’t come from Ride’s mic or Hill’s drums; the group barely even pause for breath as they race unbroken from song to song, each one seamlessly bridging into the next in a manic supersonic medley of pummelling, abrasive and yet extremely catchy and dance-alongable tunes.
They plucked liberally from their back-catalogue with at least a few tracks from most of their albums; ensuring that everyone in the crowd had an opportunity to initiate a clamour or crush out of recognition for a certain beat, lyric or hook.
At gigs like this it becomes difficult to discern whether the crowd are acting out of intuition or inspiration; but in the case of Death Grips there is no doubt that everyone was spurred on by the music and especially the performance of MC Ride who seemed all the while to be subtly orchestrating the behaviour of the audience.
At one point, he even managed to create a spontaneous mosh pit with a simple and suggestive flick of his wrist.
‘I’ve Seen Footage’ was a particular highlight but it seems counter-intuitive to concentrate on individual elements in a show where songs, sounds, moments and whole impressions merge into one huge imposing sweaty yet beautiful debacle wherein the whole seemed much greater than the sum of it’s individual parts.