This was my first time at the Rock and Roll Hotel on H street in Washington DC. This isn’t to say I haven’t walked past it about a billion times, and often thought, “oh yeah, I should check that out sometime.” But thanks to my friend Halil, who suggested we go see Death Grips, I got to go inside.
This venue is the perfect size. Local shows wouldn’t feel empty and national acts get give an intense, close-quarters show. It reminds me of all those crowded, sticky punk clubs I used to go to and play in the San Francisco Bay area, except this club kept the performance at the ground floor (I am sure every drummer in the world thanks R&RH for that).
Despite the fact that this show was on a Tuesday, it sold out (!). Even so, there was still a surprising amount of breathing room at the show, and upstairs there was another bar that never got too crowded — much like the back bar at Black Cat. The opener was Mykki Blanco, who we sadly missed while we were stuffing our faces at Shawafel (which was delicious. I had a flalafel wrap that tasted like a spicy dream wrapped in cucumber/yogurt sauce). We walked in in the middle of his last song,I think.
I’d never heard of Death Grips, and they put on an intense show. I could’ve done well with a step stool or a balcony or some sort of tiered area to stand on since I’m only 5 feet tall, but that has more to do with R&RH than the band. The band has two people. It’s loops and pre-recorded music, a live drummer with triggered deep bass, and a super-intense front man. The show is continuous, with no breaks between songs, so it’s like performance art almost. They also had an AV component that was on such a small display it was barely visible — something I’d figure the venue would have worked out ahead of time, but didn’t.
Death Grips is hard to categorize, as was the audience.
Now, the audience was the third man to this band. Okay, Death Grips is rap, crashy, trashy drums, electronic loops. Their audience was mostly white guys 16-30 (it was an all-ages show). There were tiny babies who were still pre-adolescent bean-poles, there were punks with their patched jean jackets, there were hippies with their head bands and long, unwashed hair, there were about five black guys and about a dozen women, and then there were the 40-50 year old white couples who, I’m guessing, brought their kids to the show? I think? I can’t figure it out. These dudes must have some genius universal appeal I don’t get — I wonder what their marketing strategy is. They put on a helluva high-energy live show, so perhaps that is their selling point. As someone who blindly walked into Death Grips, I enjoyed it, but still wonder how all these different folks heard about and opted to come out on a Tuesday night to see the show.
But I like new stuff, and this was all new. Holidays are here, so I’m trying to get my quota on cool stuff here in DC before I go off to different places for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. Happy holidays, world.