Photos | Death Grips, Flying Lotus, and Buke & Gase
by Chris Barth, is a contributing writer & photographer in New York.
Visceral and brutal in the most cathartic way possible, Death Grips abused the stage at Le Poisson Rouge at NPR’s CMJ showcase on Wednesday night. Drummer Zach Hill beat his set to bloody bits without a shred of remorse, anchoring an otherwise wheeling and cacophonic set of material from the group’s two full-length 2012 releases. His gunshot beats mixed with a swirl of pre-recorded ether, creating a cyclone of noise in the red-washed room. The Tasmanian Devil turning in the middle of the cyclone, MC Ride, was the center of attention. Shirtless and drenched in sweat, he racing around the stage bellowing harshly satisfying verses as the crowd looked on in awe. This was no sing-along rap show, this was a ferocious, in-your-face rap experience. When it was over and the fire on stage had cooled, Ali Shaheed Muhammed (he of A Tribe Called Quest) returned to his between-set DJ deck looking equal parts impressed and intimidated. Perhaps he put it best: “That was the best set I’ve seen in 2012.”
Opening for Death Grips, juxtaposition-victims Buke & Gase did an admirable job of turning up the volume on their hybrid instruments, grabbing the attention of the more hip-hop minded fans in the crowd. Arone and Aron and their homespun set-up might give the impression of gimmick, but they are far from it. Arone’s voice is enchanting and they can both shred.
Cooling things down at the end of the night was Flying Lotus, one of the best producer/DJs in the game. Though his recorded material can be eccentric and dense, he showed an uncanny ability to tap into the mood of the dancefloor – something Muhammed had struggled to do all night – mixing brilliant original tunes with crowd favorite tracks like Kanye and Jay-Z’s “Ni**as in Paris.” “Putty Boy Strut,” off FlyLo’s latest, Until The Quiet Comes, was a highlight, and the entire set was a welcome treat.