Death Grips is online. The elusive experimental hip-hop trio surprised fans with a Sick New World festival announcement in May of 2022, followed by dozens of tour dates after a sporadic online presence since their Year of the Snitch tour in 2018/2019. To the dismay of many, the tour announcement was not accompanied by new music, save a single that features 11 straight minutes of Zach Hill incoherently mashing electronically distorted drums.
Comprised of vocalist MC Ride, drummer Zach Hill, and producer/keyboardist Andy Morin, Death Grips performed at Brooklyn Bowl in East Nashville on September 25th. This was the first time Death Grips had been to Nashville in over 8 years and only their second time ever visiting Music City—it was an opportunity I, the host of the WRVU show Radiogrips (a portmanteau of Radiohead and Death Grips), would not miss for the world.
To be completely honest, I was slightly weary of the concert before going. As a serially online Gen Z-er, I have seen the not-so-great reviews about the crowds at Death Grips concerts. From the obnoxious mosh pits of insufferable high schoolers to the “Philly Pisser” incident, there was plenty to be concerned about. (Yes, you read that right. On September 23rd, a concert-goer peed in the middle of the floor at a Death Grips show at Franklin Music Hall. Check it out for yourself if you feel so inclined.) However, I was pleasantly surprised at how great the Nashville crowd was. Generally, everyone seemed to respect boundaries-the mosh pit was kept in the middle of the floor and any sort of shoving or pushing was absent outside of it. Before the show, my friend and I had decided that we would stay out of the mosh, and we both felt that it didn’t take away from the experience whatsoever.
With doors opening at 7 p.m., I walked in anticipating a dreadful 2+ hour wait for the notoriously late group. Death Grips has rarely toured with a supporting act–that didn’t change for their 2023 tour–yet the pre-set wait did not disappoint. In the background of the ambient chatter of the sold-out crowd played unreleased Death Grips instrumentals. Reminiscent of their album Fashion Week, the pre-set playlist had the typical industrial influence of a Death Grips project, but at a higher bpm with an EBM flair. As nice as it would have been to hear Ride’s ear-splitting vocals over the instrumentals, I still found myself nodding my head to the gritty beats.
Contrary to my expectations, the thrash of Death Grips came no later than 8:15. The relatively quiet sea of people ripped wide open when the trio walked on stage as the first few chords of “System Blower” pierced the venue. Just as fast as the pit opened, it caved in, fans ready for Death Grips to take care of what they came to do: “blow your system.” With energy high, Death Grips flipped on a dime to “I’ve Seen Footage”. Now, everyone was bouncing around to the slightly more palatable and dance-y tune, and I couldn’t stop myself from joining in the chant when the chorus hit.
MC Ride put on full display that he isn’t washed up just yet, exerting every ounce of energy into each syllable while tumultuously shifting around the stage for 29 non-stop songs. I was tickled by their incredible selection of tracks, my personal highlights including the three songs they played off Exmilitary; “Spread Eagle Across the Block,” “Takyon (Death Yon),” and “Guillotine,” as well as “Bubbles Buried in This Jungle,” from their 2015 album Bottomless Pit.
I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up Zach Hill’s bewitching performance on drums. As the leading creative force of the collective, Hill ties MC Ride’s fierce vocals with Morin’s acute, avant electronics into the blood-curling yet spellbinding aura that characterizes Death Grips. Throughout the show, MC Ride would bring me out of a hypnotic trance induced by Hill, bringing me back to the abrasive reality. Never offbeat, Hill pounded the drums as if he were fighting them for a Featherweight World Title.
As the show came to a close, MC Ride hid in the shadows on the side of the stage, recovering from his hour-long tirade during the instrumental track, “Runway H.” The spotlight was back on Zach Hill but with a sudden shock, Ride poised at center stage and the glitchy intro to “Hacker” reverberated through the venue. As if a tractor beam were on stage, the entire crowd was sucked forwards, all chaotically bouncing around, arms flailing and heads bobbing. The song abruptly ended and in unison, Ride, Hill, and Morin mellowly trotted off stage. The trio had more than warranted the trade of sweat between everyone in the crowd, hopefully, no blood, but certainly some tears (of joy, of course).
Check them out here:
Death Grips Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/5RADpgYLOuS2ZxDq7ggYYH?si=ynriBZE2Sz26LCifZQuUlw
Brooklyn Bowl Nashville Setlist: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1kQHmXqAHLMLXepzDgJC2h?si=f7d636ca76604aed