Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Death Grips – Electric Ballroom, London 07/11/12

09 November 2012, 15:21 | Written by Thomas Hannan

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Band of the year? Death Grips. No question.

Let’s assess the facts. First, the band started 2012 by following up their excellent, free mix tape Exmilitary with the release of their debut album proper, The Money Store. Any fears that signing to a major label might have calmed the raging fire that exists in their belly were assuaged when it turned out to be at once the most enjoyable and confrontational hip hop record we’d seen so far. Hot on its heels, they went straight in to recording a follow up, NO LOVE DEEP WEB.

Unfortunately, their desire to strike whilst the iron was hot lead to them cancelling a slew of dates across the world, leaving fans somewhat irked. But when Epic Records denied them the possibility to make good on the promise that gigs were only ditched in order to give fans another record before the end of the annum, Death Grips decided to release it for free, along with cover art depicting nothing but a big pink penis, alongside a slew of confrontational emails between them and their label that would eventually see them dropped. It was pure, simple, punk rock.

Death Grips’ second record of the year turned out to be just as vital as their first, and now they’ve finally gotten round to playing their formidable body of work to live audiences – in a manner that has me wondering whether all other gigs I’ve seen this year might actually have been lacking something in the commitment department – the few shows where they stood me up are totally forgiven. Death Grips have gifted me two great records and one incredible gig this year. I now feel like I owe them something.

Whilst their performance is certainly an aggressive spectacle, it’s just as much a party as it is a riot. Circle pits break out instantaneously throughout the venue, but they’re of the good natured sort – the entirety of this sold out Electric Ballroom, front to back, are having a blast. That includes the rumoured hundreds of record label A&R types who are reportedly in attendance, a curiously high proportion of the audience given that, from a commercial point of things (as described above), this band seem like a complete bloody nightmare to work with. My advice to them would be stop trying to work with them, and just be a fan – Death Grips do whatever they want, and are clearly very generous with the results. Being a fan of a band is rarely this rewarding.

Drummer Zach Hill and MC Stefan Burnett appear on the stage, topless and boasting more muscles than Morecambe Beach. The duo operate at warp factor zillion for the whole set, allowing not a moment of silence throughout their over an hour on the stage. Hill is a monster; his kit, consisting of just one bass drum, one tom and a snare, is subject to a constant, virulently concentrated battering that’s as much of an unfathomable joy to simply gaze at as it is to hear. Live, Burnett might operate at a level of intensity that renders his rapping barely comprehensible when compared to his on-record delivery, but the sheer magnetism of him as a performer and his level of personal involvement in the words (whatever they are) is impossible to knock. The crowd take over on the tunes they know best anyway, which is a lot – ‘I’ve Seen Footage’ and ‘Get Got’ especially are greeted like anthems.

With Burnett slurring and shouting his way through the lyrics whilst Hill does his math-rock thing over the songs, it has the potential to be a complete mess. But it’s actually far more forceful than it is on record; probably something to do with the unnerving effect that being able to look in Burnett’s eyes as he shouts ‘Deep Web’s most quoted line – “don’t make me take my face off” – has on all in attendance, no matter how hard they’re dancing. In all honesty, there’s just so much going on that it becomes difficult to absorb; as such, I want to see it all happen exactly as it did, again, right now. Please.

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