On September 18, at TBD Fest, near the confluence of the two rivers of Sacramento CA, Death Grips came back to their hometown and offered up a roaring reckoning. Despite a quick sound check, MC Ride (vocals, magnetism) Zach Hill (drums, fury) and Andy Morin (keyboards, dark and ancient knowledge) sauntered onto the stage without a word. After briefly hyping up the crowd, MC Ride rockets into a screaming whirlwind of kaleidoscopic vocals which did not let up for a solid hour.
Playing a seamless stream of songs like “Hacker,” “Get Got, ”and“ I’ve Seen Footage” Death Grips was undeniable. They were poetry as cacophony and vice versa. MC Ride gripped the microphone as if it was his only connection to the material world. The swirling vortex which issued from his lips elevated him, and caused him to jump and grind and move with a holy fervor. It was equal parts entertainment and ritual. People (in the crowd) were punching and shoving each other with wild smiles. Zach Hill, possessed by the spirit of True Drumming, did not miss a beat nor did he pause unless it was absolutely necessary. Andy Morin danced behind his keyboard like a puppet master, lending melody to the beats and a spine to the whole sound. The three were entwined.
A cloud of dust rose above it all, lit by a wall of white. Typically when one goes to a concert half the fun is the lighting. Listening to favorite songs while bright lights highlight our emotions is hypnotizing, almost transcendent. The colors complement the sounds. Death Grips had none of that nonsense. The instant the first note was heard the band was backlit by a wall of punishing white light. It did not change. It did not dim. It was the constant background energy of all space, and it was uninterested in the human beings who deigned to posture in its presence.
The minimal combination of lighting and nonstop vigor was what Death Grips is all about. The end result of such stark lighting was three men cast in silhouettes moving erratically to rib rattling noise. It was beautiful. The three men were as all of humanity, fretting and jiving before their fellow creatures while the unblinking gaze of an indifferent god cast them as shadow figures, little more than dreams. MC Ride belted while Morin let his shout echo in the air like a shot, and Hill jammed away on synthetic animal skins connecting us all to a past we remember only in the deepest sleep. Death Grips reminded us we are little but apes with complicated brains, and the fact that we can make art with those brains is our only redemption.
Death Grips is the brutal art the future deserves. Their music is daunting, challenging, filled with genuine anger and frustration, giving a voice to the defeat of an entire generation. Death Grips is exactly what America needs.
Words: Evan Nyarady
Photos Sarah Elliott and Melissa Uroff