Washington, DC had absolutely no reason to expect the less than stellar display at the Rock and Roll Hotel from much buzzed about, Sacramento, California-based indie-to-signed-to floundering back to indie status band Death Grips. As recently as October 23rd, Death and Taxes Magazine writer Doug Bleggi relayed after their performance at a CMJ showcase that “Death Grips made everything that preceded them irrelevant.” That’s a heavy fucking statement, but one that also shows how fucking stupid everything is these days as well.
Heavy drums and droning trap-style rap sounds recall Salem, the witch house outfit that excited the darkness in our hearts – then in smoldering hot without catching a mainstream fire – eventually became a flicker of passion waiting to be ignited again. They’re certainly punk, and while less rock than say, Cerebral Ballzy, ignite that notion that scary punk rock is coming to kick your ass. Then, when, it doesn’t, it fails at being that, too. If you’re a person that’s afraid of the experience of life, who chooses to live life within the thickness of the line that creates walking on the edge, then this is a band you love. However, if you remember a life defined by wanting a band to wallop you in the face with a force not founded in ironically not giving a flying fuck, then you left this show angry, and if you had paid for a ticket, wanting a refund.
Neither punk rock not grunge can’t exist in the internet age. Rock’s edges need something to fight against, a space in which to foster vitriol. Otherwise, you’re just an asshole fighting against something for which you were clearly too ignorant or lazy to simply live life or sit on the internet and find a solution. Death Grips aren’t bad as a band, and I’m certainly in no position to say they’re bad as people, either. However, they’re products of a lazy generation where again, people can choose to live in the thick lines that create the edge instead of living on the edge itself. Most of the audience likely became aware of Death Grips due to hearing their military-style assault of the digital atmosphere of the last 24 months. Instead of building a buzz through national touring and a slow acceptance of what was good about them as a physical act, they became excitement-in-a-box, toy pistols in the hands of very real boys (and yes a few girls were at Rock and Roll Hotel), and Death Grips’ sold out show proved that, yes, even in this generation, boys still love to play fight and live imaginary lives when toy guns are involved.
I can understand why every single rock critic I admire thinks Death Grips are wonderful. In a controlled space, like say, your iPod or a Spotify window, this is amazing music. Songs like “Guillotine (it Goes Yah)” are crude blunt axes of sound that if not aware of the space from whence they rage, can create a desire to change the world. In a YouTube and iTunes generation though, imagine playing those sounds ad nauseum, and likely already experiencing being filled with the angst and rage they cause to the point where what you do with that hate for society is not start a raging mosh-pit at a show, but rather write a blog post where you proclaim them the best band of all time. That’s entirely plausible, and in seeing MC Ride and Zach Hill onstage not really knowing how to interact more than Ride raising his hands to the crowd or pouring water on his head nodding zombie throng, it became perfectly obvious that this was an emperor in new clothes, and in an era where nudity is only a mouse click away, nobody really cared.
In an era of silent discos, quiet rage makes sense. But when you hit town with the supposed fury and space for vitriolic hate and anger of Death Grips, a show where an entire crowd isn’t jamming a fist in the air, a knee to your skull and isn’t a brackish sea of sweaty angst, you’ve failed. Death Grips made Salem irrelevant. Yep, that sounds about right. Iggy? The Stooges? Bad Brains? Hell, even Brooklyn’s Flatbush Zombies? Yeah? You’re all still really safe.