Ed. Note: Cajun Tomato correspondent Scott Hesedahl recently attended Death Grips’ Portland show. Though the band’s abrasive sonics are certainly not for everyone he loved their show’s intensity.
As I waited Saturday night in a downpour for the Star Theatre’s doors to open, a stranger approached to inform me he planned on pissing through the fence the line had formed against.
I attempted telling him there were better spots to urinate in the belly of Chinatown.
“Fuck it,” he replied. “It’s the Death Grips, man.”
Yes, Death Grips, the Cali death-hop act that surprisingly signed to a major label only to be dropped by that major label (Epic) after leaking their album for free without notifying the label.
The man with the angry bladder urinated then returned to the back of the line as people shuffled inside. I soon understood his flippant attitude.
Having never been inside the Star Theatre, at least not in its current state, I looked forward to seeing the venue. It has partially filled the void between the larger, neighboring Roseland and the tiny Dante’s as the place sloppy rock shows take place in this town since the passing of Satyricon.
Once inside I headed to the bar (one of three!) and mingled with the head-bobbers whom I only saw briefly for the remainder of the night. I was approximately two and a half beers early for the opening band, Cities Aviv.
I listened to a few of their tracks on the web before the show and, while not my cup of tea, I did find some redeeming qualities and agreeable hooks. That all went by the wayside once their set started.
Maybe it was the sound levels or maybe they were compensating for their comparative lack of intensity and playing to the audience, but after two tracks all I could equate the noise to was “Pretty Hate Machine”-era Nine Inch Nails prison raping Girl Talk. I sat in the balcony for the remainder of their playlist as I watched the place fill seemingly beyond capacity.
Reggae (wtf?) served as bump music between sets. The all-ages floor was impossibly small, moving toward the stage and down the narrow corridor that is the Star Theatre felt like being herded into a cattle car.
Fittingly, the main floor smelled of wet dog and oozed youthful angst.
Drummer Zach Hill and vocalist Stephan “MC Ride” Burnett quietly came on stage and removed their shirts.
As if MC Ride had slipped a grenade into the drum kit, after five seconds of silence the group detonated into a spastic noise-filled frenzy that I can only imagine a TNT and bathsalt speedball would induce.
The crowd went capital “A” APESHIT. I pulled up my hoodie and followed suit. With no barrier between the stage and nowhere else to go, crowd surfers went on epic song length rides.
Tracks “The Fever (Aye Aye)”, “I’ve Seen Footage” and “Get Got” were as intense as any concert experience I can remember. If the Mayans were right and the world ends this December, Death Grips are on the soundtrack.
I have a hard time believing this band will make it more than a couple of years considering their recent stunts, but until then, I will have a ticket in my pocket whenever they come through.
The ferocity of their show can’t really be described with any justice. It was like ‘Nam, man, and you weren’t there.