The timing was almost too perfect. The dust was still lingering in the air from the hype tornado that recently surrounded Death Grips, the thorny, aggressive hip-hop duo from Northern California. And just as the buzz had reached critical mass with the recent announcement that SPIN Magazine had named it Artist of The Year, Death Grips arrived in our fair city with little fanfare and boxes of t-shirts baring a picture of drummer/producer Zach Hill's engorged wang.
Truth be told, Death Grips' performance at the Star Theater on Saturday would have likely sold out, hype or no hype. The group's two albums from this year—The Money Store (released by Epic Records in April) and No Love Deep Web (spread on the Internet by the band in October)— pull together threads of punk, IDM, noise, hip-hop and electro, searing them into a smoldering, speaker-torturing mass. It's the sound that the information overloaded, hyper-sexualized and disturbingly aggressive world has been begging for.
At least, that was the feeling in the room on Saturday. The throbbing mass of under-21 fans were already kicked into a frenzy by opening act Cities Aviv, but by the time Hill and MC Ride slipped quietly onstage, the air in the room became electric. A heaving mass of hormones and coiled fury threw swarmed around the floor. The pair on stage was entirely unfazed, however. They quietly popped off their t-shirts, gave each other a look, and then exploded.
Song after song spilled out in a sweaty torrent. A few from each of the band's self-released mixtapes and bona fide albums, fused together by Hill's frankly terrifying drumming. The tracks themselves were ratcheted up in both volume and intensity for maximum effect: "I've Seen Footage" felt like a Oi! punk band anthem in its live guise; "Lil Boy" was the sound of a hundred subwoofers overloading at once. Hill and Ride responded with steely physicality, the former attacking his kit as if he were trying to reduce it to splinters, the latter swinging around the stage like a prizefighter.
Death Grips just kept coming and coming and coming, until 45 minutes went by and then, boom, it was done. Hill and Ride collected their shirts and were gone. No waves, no "thank you"s, no nothing. As exhausting and perversely satisfying as a quick, hard, dirty fuck in an alleyway.