Death Grips Lit Up a Dark Election Night with an Illuminating Performance
"They got to stop smoking crack backstage
The impatience of the crowd gathered here on a Tuesday night seemed strange. It wasn't late in the evening, and there were no opening acts. Even if Death Grips waited until 9 p.m. to perform, what difference did it make? They'd still be starting earlier than 90 percent of most touring acts that play in Arizona. But the audience was on edge and chomping at the bit for the trio to get going. At one point,
The speakers played a long, persistent drone during the preshow. It sounded like an airplane taking off, building in intensity over time. Maybe that's why the crowd was so agitated: The music made us feel like we were in runway
Or it could be something else: Perhaps we were getting punked. Death Grips have been notorious no-shows in the past. While it's been a while since they've pulled any performance-art shenanigans, the timing couldn't be
Unlike the election results, we didn't have to wait all night for Death Grips to do their thing. A few minutes after 8:30, the band took to the stage. Their setup was spare: A drum kit, a synth, and a mic for MC Ride. No video projections or smoke machines: Just (very dim) blue lighting on the band. They played in relative darkness for most of the night, looking more like writhing shadows than flesh-and-blood rockers.
Here's the thing about Death Grips: They don't need an elaborate stage show, or any KISS-style bells and whistles. Live, Death Grips are a force to be reckoned with, due to the intensity of their playing. And it's an intensity that's matched a hundred-fold by the audience. As soon as the band started playing, the crowd transformed into what can best be described as a slow-motion mosh pit for the duration of the show.
I had seen Death Grips before, and they had the same amazing effect on the audience then as they did at the Marquee on Tuesday. Their music transforms crowds into a wave-pool of pressed flesh and flailing arms and sweat. Mashed up against my neighbors and swaying back and forth to the band's incessant harsh rhythms, I felt like I was trapped in one of those visions of Hell where the lakes of fire are full of intertwined bodies.
Real mosh pits broke out throughout the show, especially during certain numbers like "Get Got" or "Giving Bad People Good Ideas," which set the crowd into going-apeshit overdrive. But while slam dancing and bodies churning together dominated the night, the overall vibe was positive. People were stoked to be there and looked out for each other. When smaller audience members got bowled over by someone freaking out to "I've Seen Footage," everyone around them stepped in to scoop them back. While the crowd was constantly moving and physically intense, it never felt dangerous or threatening.
MC Ride wasn't one for stage banter. He kept the show going, barking song after song for over an hour and a half. Even in the dim blue
While their set leaned heavy on classic The Money Store bangers, the band filled their long set with songs from all their records. Some of the tunes off their more "restrained" albums like Government Plates" sounded incredible
By the time they wrapped up their set, I had managed to escape the sea of roiling flesh to camp out with the wall-flowers. Most of the folks who weren't in the pit were looking at their phones. Even through the noise onstage I could hear worried murmurs of "Michigan" and "He just took Georgia" coming from the
Last Night: Death Grips at The Marquee Theatre in Tempe
The Crowd: A mixed crowd, mostly clad in black T-shirts. Older balding dudes in Devo shirts stood alongside high school girls doing their best Ramona Flowers cosplay.
Overheard: The roadie coming onstage to drop off water bottles and towels got lots of love from the audience. Chants of "WATER GUY FOR PRESIDENT!" and "FRESH! CLEAN! TOWELS!" rippled through the crowd. Is it too late for Water Guy to be a write-in candidate?
Random Notebook Dump: That guy I mentioned earlier, knocking people over while losing his shit to "I've Seen Footage"? That was me. Sorry about stampeding all over the place like a crazed wildebeest, y'all.
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