Review: Death Grips at the Academy

credit: Stephen Keegan

It’s a long flight of stairs up to the Academy’s main room and on this night, getting close to Samhain, it felt like a liminal space, a passageway between the relative sanity of the street – our world – and the baying, oppressive atmosphere inside – Death Grips’ world.

In lieu of a support act, an hour of droning sirens instilled a cult-like fervour in the pit – utilising the Shepherd scale auditory illusion that gives the impression of a continuously rising pitch that never actually gets any higher.

The appearance of the shirtless, sinewy MC Ride onstage was the only release from the sickening tension for the mostly-male, man-bunned crowd – and release they did, crushing towards the barrier, each wanting a piece of their demagogue.

“Fuck who’s watching,” was the opening declaration of “Whatever I Want,” and the pit responded in style, encouraged by Ride’s aggressive delivery and confrontational stance at the very edge of the stage to jump and mosh and generally get close and sweaty in a manner rarely seen outside of The Hub on Friday nights.

“Bubbles Buried in the Jungle” and fan favourite “Get Got” arrived without pause, with DJ Andy Moirin and the relentless Zach Hill on drums not letting up the onslaught for a second – or, as it turned out, the next 90 minutes.

This was musical masochism for both artist and audience. The volumes reached extreme levels, the distortion such that at times it was difficult to identify the track and the myth MC Ride only briefly became the man Stefan Burnett again to take sip of water at the 40 minute mark – as his bandmates ploughed on.

Some primal responses emerged in the crowd. This reporter chose flight early on, retreating to the relative safety of the balcony upon re their reviewing responsibilities, but enough people chose fight and enough punches were thrown to sour the experience a little.

Exhilarating as the eternal low-end, low-fi assault was, it was the more melodic moments in the set that stood out – 2012 single “I’ve Seen Footage” got a reception that shook the entire building and made for a nervous time on the balcony. The easily identifiable chorus of “Bitch Please” was a treat for the ear late in the set.

“The Fever (Aye Aye)” marked the end, the breaking of the spell. Delirious survivors made their way back to our world, rejoicing upon finding their friends alive outside on Abbey Street.

MC Ride has gained infamy for his dark and at times extremely cryptic lyrics, but we can take a stab at one track’s meaning at least. “This is Violence Now (Don’t Get Me Wrong)” from their 2013 release Government Plates? That’s clearly about their live shows.

Stephen Keegan

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