Words by / Ben Cardillo
I have said it before and I will say it again: Death Grips is the greatest band of this decade. Their live performance absolutely reflects their greatness. I have now seen them live twice - once in Paris and once here in Austin on March 26th. While Paris was a superior concert in terms of crowd energy (maybe because of the French obsession with strong espresso), their set at Mohawk still lived up to the hype around their legendary performances.
Now to call a band the greatest of a decade may be a prematurely given accolade, but their discography is not only flawless but entirely forward thinking. In a now deleted interview with Pitchfork Stefan Burnett, or MC Ride, explained, “we’re not into lateral movement . . . we want to move forward, make things better.” They have fulfilled this promise, releasing four albums since the time of the interview which completely differ from each other in instrumentation, themes, and lyrical content. You may be saying to yourself “okay, they’re a great band, but there is a lot of great bands to come out of this decade,” but another aspect that makes Death Grips enthralling is the way they have perfectly captured this unique period in human history. They capture themes of paranoia (“I’ve Seen Footage"), over saturation of information (“Culture Shock”), isolation (“Fuck Me Out” and “Inanimate Sensation”), suicide and mental illness ("On GP” and “World of Dogs”), sex and drug use to escape (“I Want it I Need it”), and anger at just about everything (all of their songs). They have also used (or not used) the internet to their advantage better than just about every current band. After the release of The Money Store they went against their labels wishes and released their next album No Love Deep Web through their website, thirdworlds.net. They then screamed “freelance mother fucker” on their next album Government Plates. About three times a year Death Grips will tweet “Death Grips is Online,” which spurs their fan base into tweeting the phrase and pictures of the group repeatedly until the next album drops. Pictures of MC Ride smiling are more valuable than Bitcoin. Their Instagram and Twitter are both cryptic and unverified, adding to the mystery surrounding the band. Only two interviews with Death Grips can be found, and the one with Pitchfork, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqVDVVrJBSE, is one of my favorite artist interviews to date.
Death Grips played at Mohawk this past Tuesday, March 26th. Overall the concert was mostly what one would expect from listening to their music: mosh pits and sweaty concert goers. I got about a years worth of cardio from spending half the concert in the pit, mostly getting thrown around by people bigger than me. In the Pitchfork interview, the band talks about how they want their crowds to be volatile and for people to stop thinking. They succeeded at their task as everyone was throwing elbows and venturing into the pit at some point in the concert. Everyone from 30ish year old ex-hardcore scene looking dudes to five foot teenagers were trying their luck with what looked to be a six and a half foot sweaty, shirtless man who was throwing people around like stuffed animals. He threw me across the pit three or four times. I love a good mosh pit. It is a place to get your anger out at people who are asking you to run into them as hard as you can. But at a Death Grips show, the mosh pit is soundtracked by none other than Death Grips, music designed for throwing your body at people.
Death Grips opened with “Lost Boys” and did not stop once to rest or talk to the crowd until they closed with “The Fever (Aye Aye).” The group wore matching boxing shorts, and Andy Morin was the only member wearing a shirt, but he was not wearing shoes. The set list was very similar to their Paris show, but it did not detract from the experience because the set list consisted of some of their best tracks. They performed fan favorites like “I’ve Seen Footage,” “Guillotine,” and “No Love.” “No Love” apparently really energized the crowd because somebody punched me in the face during it. The group also played most of their highly energetic tracks like “I Break Mirrors with My Face in the United States,” System Blower,” and “Anne Bonny.” Near the end, the band played “Takyon (Death Yon)” which was a pleasant surprise as I had not heard it live before.
I was able to get my sweaty self out of the venue before most of the crowd, and I was standing on the sidewalk waiting for a ride when I heard “Pick a side guys!” Security was escorting the group out of the venue so I was able to get a look at a tired MC Ride, Zach Hill, and Andy Morin from five feet away before they disappeared around the corner. As I stood there stunned everyone began to exit the venue sweaty, bruised, and in absolute awe.