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Death Grips, Live At Skyway Theatre: The Future Of Dangerous Music

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On Thursday, October 26th, Death Grips graced the stage of the Skyway Theatre in Minneapolis on the tenth stop of their co-headlining fall tour with industrial metal group Ministry. The highly revered industrial rock pioneers in Ministry took a major risk inviting Death Grips, one of the most notoriously volatile musical groups in recent memory, to open up their shows on this most recent US tour, but having attended this particular show, I can say the risk definitely paid off.

I am a shameless music nerd, and I spend most of my time scouring the internet for new and exciting artists, but never in my life have I discovered something as essential as Death Grips. Long after the demise of punk rock and the stagnation of extreme metal, Death Grips arose from the darkest corner of the internet to take the underground music scene by storm. Influenced by everything from hip-hop to math rock, these three guys have redefined what it means to make dangerous music. Wildly abrasive, vicious, and unrelenting, Death Grips is not only a sound, but an experience. I certainly have never experienced anything like what I did at Thursday night’s show.

At 7:00 p.m., I entered the Skyway Theatre alongside some of the most unsavory looking people one could hope to see at an event of this caliber. I situated myself into what I know to be the most advantageous area in the general admission pit: approximately five rows back and slightly to stage left. This was my second time seeing Death Grips live, the first being at First Avenue in 2015, and I thought I knew what I was in for. I looked around at the mob of fans beginning to surround me, the most conspicuous of which were a couple making out as if they had just been released from prison. They continued to make out for the entire duration of soundcheck and stage prep, which took about an hour. To distract myself from the couple’s comical disregard for social acceptability, I struck up a conversation with two impossibly high college students that were standing near me. It progressed rather normally, as we discussed what attracted us to the night’s show and Death Grips as an artist. The strange part was that they insisted on speaking with this over-the-top, fake New Jersey accent. They were nice folks. Unimaginably blitzed, but very nice nonetheless. Soon afterward, the house lights went down and beams of laser light began to dance across the stage. At that moment, the eighth circle of hell was opened right within my midst, and the Skyway Theatre descended into utter madness.

It’s incredibly difficult to explain the appeal of a Death Grips show to those who don’t seek out extreme music. It’s something of a primal release of all pent up aggression and frustration. The show is a war-like environment that facilitates the visceral discharge of any stewing dissatisfaction that may be weighing down the hearts and minds of the crowd.

When the blinding green lasers, attached like brass knuckles to the fists of each band member, began to cut through the darkness of the theatre, I experienced the most intense stage rush of my life. A stage rush is what happens when an extremely fanatic crowd hears the first notes played by the group they had come to see. Everybody rushes forward, crushing into each other and compressing with terrifying force. This particular stage rush was the most violent I had ever experienced. I was literally lifted off my feet by the massive crowd slamming into me, leaving me gasping for breath as I screamed the words to Death Grips’s opening song. Of all the savage rituals enjoyed by DG crowds, I find the stage rush to be most utterly horrifying of all. You genuinely feel like you must fight to survive during this part of the show. That’s all part of the thrill. About ten minutes into the set, the crowd began to decompress and open up into mosh pits. This is the point where all those who did not realize what they were getting into by entering the general admission area in front of the stage force their way out of the crowd, and the stage rush devolves into concentrated clusters of flailing limbs and rampaging adrenaline junkies.

Most folks are familiar with the concept of a mosh pit. An open circle within a crowd where willing participants effectively become the game piece in a human pinball machine. We’ve all seen videos of rabid fans jumping, running, and flailing about in these hell pits like supercharged electrons. If being in a mosh pit at a rock show is like jostling for a wholesale TV from Target on Black Friday, a Death Grips mosh pit is like being baptized in pure chaos.

The reason I had chosen to stand in such a specific area of the theatre was because I had learned through experience that the crowd’s most enduring mosh pit would open up exactly there, after the stage rush and its aftermath. Mosh pits are the perfect environment in which to experience an extreme music performance. If you want to stand and watch the show while still being engaged with the crowd, you can stand on the edge of the pit where you have a clear view, space to breathe, and the opportunity to interact with those who choose to mosh. Then, when the group plays your favorite songs and you get that burst of excitement, you can jump into the pit and mosh with everyone else who’s feeling it too. I’m a *rebel and I like to +live on the wild side, so I was in the pit for nearly the whole show. About halfway through the set, Death Grips removed their knuckle lasers, and multicolored strobe stage lights suddenly began to flash to the beat of the music. This was the first time that I, or anyone, could actually see what was going on in the theatre. I looked around at my brothers and sisters with whom I was bonding through the incredible experience we were sharing.   As the strobe lights continued to flash, I caught a glimpse of Death Grips’s frontman, MC Ride, and the image will never leave my mind. This sinister beast of a man, staring at the crowd like a starving lion at its prey, and then exploding into the next song. That’s about when I met my concert soulmate.

I’m the world’s biggest Death Grips fan, and I know all of their lyrics by heart. A little more than halfway through the show, I was still wailing along with every word, and another audience member noticed. A very muscular, young African-American man in a death metal t-shirt grabbed me by the shoulders, and mindless instinct provoked me to immediately grab his as well. We stared right at each other’s faces and slowly began to smile as we proved our unabridged knowledge of every Death Grips lyric. For the rest of the concert, he and I screamed along with every word to even the most obscure songs they performed, and moshed together, feeding off of each other’s energy. As every new song began, I’d look at him and yell “HERE WE GO!” and he’d respond with “LET’S GET IT, BRO!” When DG completed their closing track, the crowd began to disperse. I thanked my concert brother for rocking with me, and he did the same. That was the last time I saw him. Besides the personal psychological release, making connections like that is the best part of the concert going experience.

After the show, I bought two water bottles from the bar and downed them faster than any rational being would have. I scanned the crowd and found my mother, who took me home while I began writing this article. My goal here was to help explain the appeal of extreme music and the performances of such. If you’re an adrenaline junky, and you like to explore the wilder side of life, I cannot recommend a Death Grips show enough.

 

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Death Grips, Live At Skyway Theatre: The Future Of Dangerous Music