Photographs by Neil Van.
Three times. I was supposed to see Death Grips three times last year. They supposedly broke up, and I even devoted a tribute article to their legacy. Legacy shmegacy; They never truly left. They released a few albums after this apparent separation. If anything, they separated from society and not as a group. They declared themselves an art project that worked on emotions, and that’s the one thing they were always certain about. I signed up as media for this Death Grips show and honestly expected another stint. Would they cancel last minute or just not even show up at all? They’ve done both, so who knew. As the line was massive and moving as slowly as molasses (security used metal detecting wands on virtually every guest), this delay to prove myself wrong just felt longer. It gave me time to trick myself, too. Maybe this will be the real deal for once. Without an opening act, we waited with a flood of lights in our direction. We couldnt see amidst the beams and the fog that clouded behind them.
There was no introduction. The lights didn’t go down and there wasn’t any lead in music. The lights just turned red, turned down, and the band was already on stage and ready to play straight away. This was it. This was the real deal.
I finally got to see the experimental hip hop unicorn known as Death Grips live at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto.
The show was an hour and a half (or so) set that had over twenty songs. There was not even a single break between songs. There was virtually zero time for any of the members to take a break except for the odd moment (where an instrumental intro in a song like Big House gave rapper MC Ride a chance to grab a quick sip of water). If the music was laid back, this would still be tiring. However, the fellows in Death Grips are about as laid back as a pit bull. MC Ride shook, jumped, stomped and fought against the air for the entire time. Zach Hill made his drum kit wish it had never been born by pummeling it with enough rage to drive even passerby crazy. Andy Morin, the most sane one there (that still isn’t saying much), still went as ballistic as possible within the confinements of his space as he trembled and twitched like a drug addict having an exorcism. Death Grips skipped out on any Toronto shows for a long time, and they certainly worked on putting all of that lost time and energy into this show.
The set list was all things Death Grips. With most of the set devoted to material from The Money Store and Jenny Death, the entire night was abrasive and a pummeling attack. For the common listener, this exceptionally loud show would have been hell on Earth. For Death Grips fans, this was mythology coming to life. This was every bit as chaotic as we had hoped for. The audience was violent and unforgiving. I finally got to see this living urban legend of a band, and all of the rumors were true. I would love to witness this ear shattering trio again, but who knows when that will be.
Thanks to Embrace Presents for media access.