During a break in between songs at the Ogden Theatre last night, Run the Jewels' Killer Mike joked about someone who ran out of the building during the previous song, clearly out of her comfort zone. This is not music for the uninitiated: Two dudes screaming on stage over beats seemingly made of explosions. And they are joined by a crowd of hundreds all screaming the lyrics with their hands in the air in the shape of a gun and a fist. It's not something you can merely spectate.
House of Vans brought this dynamic duo, these two buds, these maniacal forces to Denver, and there's no doubt every one that made it in to the free "first come first serve" show thanks Vans for that.
While free, it was definitely work to get in. For the people I was with, it meant standing out in the cold along Colfax for an hour hoping our iPhones -- which contained the proof of our electronic tickets -- didn't die (or the venue filled up) before we made it to the doors. We made it in with our bones chilled and our phone batteries nearly gone. But once El-P and Killer Mike hit the stage, with giant grins, singing along to Queen's "We Are The Champions," the wait and stress felt more than worth it.
Run The Jewels has a way of making things seem worth it. The world is cold and cruel and random and unfair. But not all is lost, and Killer Mike and El-P are a constant reminder of that. They are a reminder that you can talk about police violence and racial discrimination and the general brutality of life and then dance and smile and shake it all off. You can switch between talking about Jessica Hernandez getting shot to death by Denver Police to leading the crowd in a chorus of "dick in her mouth all day." That's because for every horrible thing life throws at us, there's a beautiful moment around the corner, and El and Mike know how important it is to recognize the hate while never forgetting the beauty. They approach every subject with full force, always ready with a grin and a fist.
Oh man, there were there both grins and fists at this show. Literal grins from El-P, who I don't think is capable of any other facial expression, and metaphorical fists from the words of Killer Mike, who spits rhymes with unparalleled swagger and skill. He is a tank, an AK-47, a balled up, bloody fist. Put that together with El-P, who has a gift for conveying both the emotional and hilarious situations the world provides, and you get something unstoppable, something never quite before seen.
Nothing particularly amazing happened last night at the Ogden. There were no "holy shit" moments, no jaw-dropping actions. It was just Killer Mike and El-P going through Run The Jewels 1 and 2 with the same otherworldly energy that they bring to everything they do. Their rhymes, kinetic energy and unwavering dedication to the power of hip-hop were all they needed display. Maybe that's why the duo has had such an impact over the last couple of years, why people white, black, female, male, young and old would line up for hours in the cold to see their show. They make it look easy. They remind everyone that with a little confidence and skill, you can bring some hope, or at the very least, some bad ass art into a bleak world.
• BACKBEAT'S GREATEST HITS •
- 50 Photos That Prove Red Rocks Is the Most Beautiful Venue on the Planet
- Photos: Musicians Buying (Legal) Weed in Denver
- The Ten Most Underrated Guitarists in the History of Rock
- 50 Ways to Support Your DIY Music Community