Photos by Erez Avissar
Few bands have had as eventful a year as Death Grips. Here's the Sacramento punk-rap outfit's 2012, in thumbnail sketch: 1) Sign to Epic Records after L.A. Reid compares your blitzkrieg, scavenger-punk cave howlings to Whitney Houston. 2) Release The Money Store, an improvised explosive device of a record that doubles down on your already confrontational aesthetic. 3) Schedule tour. Immediately cancel tour to widespread bewilderment, disappear back into the studio. 4) Reappear just as suddenly, leaking the fruits of your studio efforts to your Twitter followers allegedly without your label's blessing. Oh, and make your "album art" a grainy .jpeg of an engorged male member with the album's title scrawled in Sharpie marker. 5) Take to Twitter when the label allegedly shuts down your website. Their on-time appearance last night, at an industry showcase event put on by NPR, may be the most conventional thing they've done yet.
If Wednesday's set is any indication, their second attempt at a tour will melt together both The Money Store and No Love Deep Web into a single fusillade. Stefan Burnett, aka MC Ride, said two words directly to the audience-- "Thank you" -- after 40-odd minutes of unremittingly intense, stage-stalking assault. Drummer Zach Hill looked more like an animated .gif than a human being. The impressive sound-system at LPR was jacked up to meet their demands: the walls, and my skull, vibrated. Their set is a master class in velocity and disorientation. It was impossible to tell at any point how much noise came directly from Hill and Burnett and how much of it screamed out of the mess of laptops around them.
My skepticism that Death Grip were really, truly about to appear onstage: High
The size of the Mac computer screens that were mounted on stage: Prehistoric
What those screens projected: The grainy, surveillance-style videos starring MC Ride that have become central to the band's mystique.
The amount of sweat that MC Ride produced by the time the first song was over: Several gallons
The brightness of the lights that flashed from the top of the stage: Skull-puncturing
The prerecorded sound-to-live-sound ratio: Disorienting. Were those live drums or sampled trash cans? MC Ride rapped along to a backing track that was at first distractingly audible, but soon melted into the overall confusion.
Between-set-DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad's verdict: "That was the best set I've seen in all of 2012."