The atmosphere is unnerving as soon as you walk through the door. Opting for an hour of ominous screeches in lieu of a traditional supporting act, the grinding drones are having the desired effect – tension is building to a point where it feels as though chaos will be a formality. Wading into the crowd, there is a pregnant stillness, an eerie excitement, the calm before the shitstorm.
When MC Ride finally does hit the stage, he receives the sort of adulation and fervour usually reserved for Baptist ministers and Republican presidential candidates. The frontman limbers up, sizing up the crowd like a prize fighter, before picking up his microphone. What follows is a volley of unprecedented brutality – ‘Whatever I Want’, ‘Bubbles Buried in the Jungle’ ‘Get Got’ all land in quick, sharp succession.
Normally, you might question whether this pace could be maintained for your typical ninety-minute set, but a Death Grips show does not follow the patterns of your average gig. There are no lulls, no pauses for breath, no reprieve. From the first song to the last, the beats are pulverising, the instrumentals disorientating, all the while MC Ride barks vitriol with the relentless dogma of a demented preacher man.
Material from the group’s earlier albums receives the most enthusiastic responses, though it is hard to tell at times due to the heavy distortion. There are moments when the testosterone in the crowd boils over and there are a number of instances of fisticuffs around us that sour what had been good natured moshing up until that point. ‘I’ve Seen Footage’ and ‘Guillotine’ trigger mass shout-alongs but there isn’t a song in the set list that doesn’t lend itself pandemonium in some shape or form.
Since their last visit to these shores – a raucous set in Whelan’s that anyone who was in attendance will have had a hard time forgetting – the Californian three piece’s fan base has without doubt swelled. On that night, the crowd was hipster heavy, and things have diversified in the subsequent three years. The attendees tonight are diehard variety, the country’s disenfranchised youth, taking in rap nerds, heavy metal kids and everyone in between.
One of the few criticisms of their 2013 gig was the absence of Zach Hill on drums with MC Ride performing with the more traditional MC/DJ setup. The full band is here tonight though and it has pushed the sound those couple of decibels higher to a point where it makes you wonder if you are doing permanent damage to your ear drums just by being in attendance.
By the end, the crowd is devastated and decimated. The Academy’s doors are thrown open and the wide-eyed wander out beneath the dim hue of the street lamps. It’s clear that no one will forget the show they have seen here tonight and ears will be ringing well into the weekend.