Hip Hop meets Noise
The Death Grips show Saturday evening at the White Stage was like a mainline of adrenaline and pushing to the brink of sonic OD. The band has called itself “experimental hip hop” and a few other things, but the experience of their live show is all about the wall of noise and the waves of bass flowing through you as you stand in the audience. They’re the only “hip hop” act I can think of that uses blast beats, the hyper fast bass drum beats from extreme metal, and the beats MC Ride raps over are often more concussive than percussive, irregular, broken, extremely loud. And then they’ll snap back into a pulsing rhythm that kind of makes sense, and then the audience will start banging their heads.
The band has an awesomely minimal, no-bullshit approach to almost everything they do, from music production to pissing off music labels to live performance. At the start, they walked out onto a black box stage — no background art, no logo, basic lighting setup, no adornment of any kind — then frontman MC Ride and drummer Zach Hill pulled their shirts off, while electronics guy Andy Morin stepped to his Akai MPK249 keyboard controller. MC Ride was wearing skinny black jeans, Zach Hill pale chested in faded blue jeans, like negative images of each other. Morin wore a grey sleeveless, logoless t-shirt.
On stage, Death Grips are just pure intensity. Their recorded music is intense and dark, but live it takes on a really visceral, physical dimension, as if they’re just pummeling you. The set lasted over an hour and was kind of a giant mashup of everything they’ve done, from early mixtapes of about five years ago (“Get Got”, “I’ve Seen Footage” and the closer “Guillotine”) up songs newer songs from their 2015 and 2016 albums, The Powers That B and Bottomless Pit. It was more or less impossible to make out MC Ride’s lyrics, but that was hardly the point. It was all about the raw, erratic energy — the noise. Mosh pits kept having these false starts, the flow just was so irregular they couldn’t keep going for long. The music however never stopped. No song breaks, band introductions, “Hi, we’re Death Grips” or anything else. Until it was over and then they just walked off stage. Because they had just fucking killed it and were ready to move on.