Concert Reviews

Death Grips at Larimer Lounge, 11/23/12


Most bands that get hyped rarely live up to it. Death Grips was better than any hype could convey. Zach Hill and MC Ride put the amount of energy into this less than hour-long performance equaling what you'd have to sustain for a five hour show of almost anyone else's music. Hill and Ride were streaming with sweat and as they thrashed about, those of us near the front were speckled with sweat.

See also: Download Death Grips' Larimer Lounge set

Drawing from its three albums, Death Grips kept things coming thick and fierce, packing in what seemed like dozens of songs into a short period of time. You could see the look of sheer excitement and joy on the faces of fans as the pulsing electronic bass blasted into the room and sustained in a modulated beat with which Hill synchronized, not by keeping with the beat but clearly working with it while doing complicated beats within beats of his own. Complicated, yes, in a way that Hill made seem tribal and hypnotic and hard at once.

MC Ride writhed about, surged forward, stared forward with a focus and intensity that rivals that of Henry Rollins during his time in Black Flag. If these guys were working from a set list, one wasn't to be seen. But clearly they had rehearsed playing with a playlist activated on the computer for the electronic component of each song. But the whole show seemed so incredibly raw and off the rails you couldn't tell that there was any real premeditation other than having written the songs ahead of time.

During "Spread Eagle Cross the Block," the crowd, already reacting with a nearly unbound enthusiasm that made most hardcore shows I've seen recently seem tame, went extra berserk. Stage dives, crowd surfing, people all but crawling over one another near the front and Ride coming forward to come close to riding out on the crowd himself several times. People surged forward so strongly in the first song or two that the monitors came off their usual ledge and on to the stage proper. Some fell over but people put them back to a position that would work for the band.

"Guillotine" got a similar reaction, as did "I've Seen Footage." Although at some point the crowd chilled out a little, this wasn't the kind of show that really aimed for letting the crowd calm down. It was a shot of adrenaline at most moments. Ride himself seemed to shake even in quiet moments in preparation for the part of the song where he would have to be fully animated.

More than most bands, hip-hop, rock, or anything else, there was an exhilarating sense of forward momentum with Death Grips. When the set ended, there was no encore, and none was needed. You definitely felt like the band could do the same set again and you wouldn't get sick of it. But no human alive could have delivered that kind of show again back to back.

Mykki Blanco got the show started, and it seemed obvious more than a few people were there to see her. Performing mostly tracks from her excellent mixtape, Cosmic Angel: The Illuminati Prince/ss, Mykki was less the character and more Micheal David Quattlebaum Jr., or so it seemed. It was hard to tell. It ultimately didn't matter because Blanco took songs that were already interesting on the mixtape and turned them all into an expansive, charismatic performance piece with some real guts behind the vocals. Blanco was very in your face in the friendliest and welcoming way.

During "Betty Rubble," Blanco held the mike to her temple and walked around like a zombie for several moments before going into some very direct rapping. "Fuckin The DJ" and its clever, and slightly raunchy, wordplay made people dance and laugh at the same time. But in general, Blanco was an impressive, likeable and riveting MC with beats that dared to be trippy and weird while the raps brought everything back to earth.


Personal Bias: To me, if Death Grips isn't the most exciting musical outfit going for its innovation, its quality of material and its ability to inspire in the live set, it's definitely in the top three.

Random Detail: The Larimer had a sign up that explicitly stated no photographs.

By the Way: I saw Zach Hill play in Hella and with Marnie Stern. The guy is one of the most talented drummers of all time, and his work in Death Grips is my favorite of all the stuff I've seen or heard. Great versatility, creativity and power in one drummer isn't common.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.