[Live Report] Death Grips @ Roundhouse (London)

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After cancelling their first European tour to record No love deep web, and then being ejected from Epic for releasing the album for free without their consent, Death Grips finally arrived in France to perform in Paris on the 12th May 2013 at the Trabendo… without drummer Zach Hill (Hella). To describe their performance that night as a disaster would be an understatement. MC Ride’s microphone was not loud enough and the layers of bass made every song unrecognizable. Basically, nothing worked and at this moment Death Grips sounded like an over hyped project: Great albums but incapable of reproducing it live.

Three years later, in a new city, after five more albums and another EP, Death Grips announced their return with a London show at the Village Underground that became sold out in an instant, followed by another one which also became sold out in about the same time. Thankfully, the trio found time in their schedule to return to the city for a « Halloween » show on the 29th October at the Roundhouse. With my interest renewed by the quality of their output and also the desire to believe the band was worth the hype, I got a ticket and waited to be blown away.

Despite announcing a « guest » to open the show, only a soundtrack of a bass loop similar to a plane taking flight put over dialogues from a movie was left in the background as the crowd assembled and started to clap anxiously to get the band to start before their schedule of 21:00. No such luck as the band took the stage right on cue, all dressed in black suit. No introduction, no hello, no nod, they started and proceeded to follow song after song without taking a break to acknowledge the audience verbally.

Whatever I want (fuck who’s watching) was first in this mixtape of a set-list where everybody’s favorite tracks from every albums was interpreted (Get got, Giving bad people good ideas, I’ve seen footage, You might think he love you…, Lord of the game, Bitch please) . Twenty five songs in an hour and twenty minutes. No pause to undress for the two musicians but a short enough break for MC Ride to take his jacket and his shirt off midway through the set. Watching and listening to Zach Hill pulverize his drum kit might have been the most impressive element of the night if MC Ride didn’t also pause very infrequently to take only a sip of water. As for keyboardist and producer Andy Morin, he only seemed to run on bass loops, never taking any break during songs.

The show was as physical for the band than for the audience. A Death Grips show inspire dancing, jumping and many hand gesture. Sitting and quietly nodding your head is missing all the fun, or even the point. Similar to a block party, Death Grips‘ set list felt like a Techno set composed to make the crowd move. Not a selection of songs but a collection of tracks to form one cohesive mass. Drum fills aplenty, vocal lines spurted from a contortionist of a frontman and bass lines invoked the spirit of the songs to make them recognizable while erasing most of the details of the track.

Despite the complexity of the material composed in studio, Death Grips seems to care less about transcribing every detail than inspiring an energetic performance from its audience. Therefore, no need to communicate verbally when you can make people move their whole body.

Thanks to the power and the clarity of the Roundhouse’s sound, Death Grips finally took a life of it’s own. The life it so clearly inspires when performed in the appropriate setting. As vital as air, seeing Death Grips live felt like understanding them for the first time. An inspiring experience made to energize. I felt refreshed and so full of energy than going to sleep seemed futile and pointless. Stories tell of the first performance of the Velvet Underground and how inspiring it was but this night felt more like discovering the Stooges (with MC Ride in the role of Iggy Pop) back when they started, an inspiring and live changing experience that obliterates any doubt you might have. A natural high that should not and cannot be controlled. Let’s hope now I won’t have to wait three more years to see them again.

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