Saturday 3 November 2012

Review: Death Grips

I went to see Death Grips play their first Berlin show ever a few days ago and it turned out to be a more than worthy introduction!

Festsaal Kreuzberg's show starting times seem to be a bit random lately. Some shows I visited recently started pretty early and on time. So when I went to Festsaal last Thursday, the doors weren't even open. Having to kill some time, I went to nearby West Germany first where some semi-interesting art exhibition opening took place. Death Grips' stage time was supposed to be 11.30pm so I had some time until the show eventually started. When I went back and hung around inside, two DJs were spinning some records and Festsaal filled more quickly than ever. There was a constant stream of audience coming in and the atmosphere swiftly got more and more excited and anticipating of what was supposed to happen.

Now Death Grips are at the moment not only hyped and featured throughout almost the whole music press, but they're also taking a huge part of their own to feed this hype. I don't mean that in a strictly negative sense at all. They are a band that speaks out about unacceptable conditions between record labels and artists. They also deal very openly on Facebook and Twitter with the conflict between themselves and their (now ex-) record label Epic, which drew the not so surprising consequence of dropping them from the label just at the day of this Berlin show. Apparently Epic didn't want to keep a band under contract that decided to leak their latest record for free on the internet without even letting them know in the first place and that published internal emails on Facebook. So Epic published a statement (read more about it on Pitchfork) in which they said "when marketing and publicity stunts trump the actual music, we must remind ourselves of our core values. To that end, effective immediately, we are working to dissolve our relationship with Death Grips."

You can like the way Death Grips deal with this or you can disagree, but they definitely know how to piss people off. And whatever your stand on this conflict, it's definitely a huge promotion push for the band. But Death Grips are not solely an outcome of clever PR ideas and press hype. And I have to strongly disagree with Epic on the point of trumping the actual music, because much more importantly, Death Grips are an amazing band that puts out highly interesting music by combining different styles and backgrounds and that keeps on pushing what they do even further with every new release.

They entered the stage, which was mostly empty besides two screens showing some video art and a pretty minimalistic drum set, consisting of only bass drum, snare drum and a floor tom. The stage looked way larger than it usually does this empty. It was just Zach Hill, whom you probably know for being the drummer for bands like Hella (and many more, see this impressive list of collaborations on wikipedia) and Stefan Burnett aka. MC Ride on that big stage, but as soon as they started playing, they filled the whole room with their frantic stage presence.

Their set started very noisy and raw but it got more straight and somehow more danceable towards the end. Nonetheless the whole show was both musically and concerning the vocals totally straight forward and in your face. Stylistically you could probably describe their music as experimental hip hop somewhere between aggressive grime and even some industrial influences. The live drumming added perfectly to the deep and heavy pumping beats and it was fascinating to watch two people play such a highly energetic set and create such an intense atmosphere. There were literally no pauses or phases to rest, neither for them nor for the audience. They just kept on playing straight through a 50 minute set and the audience went berserk. It felt like being at a punk/hardcore show, there was almost more stagediving than at the Unbroken reunion show earlier this year and people were dancing and going crazy in every corner of the room, not to speak of the wild mob directly in front of the stage.

While before the show, I was at least a bit afraid that Death Grips' concept could wear off too easily and not withstand a whole live set, I was so proven wrong! They just kept on throwing hit after hit at the crowd and immediately left the stage after playing their last song. There were no big gestures, no announcements or speeches and there was no encore, which was totally the right thing to do. The venue music started playing again and I left Festsaal Kreuzberg with the feeling that Death Grips did everything right.

1 comment:

  1. also read another review on Nerdcore here:

    it includes links to:

    some photos of the show ( and a pretty interesting interview with a lawyer about the Death Grips vs. Epic case (