BROCKHAMPTON, slowthai, 100 gecs @ The Masonic Temple

Monday, December 2, 2019 - 4:26pm

NOSELL

Question Everything, Inc.

When BROCKHAMPTON announced the “Heaven Belongs To You” tour with slowthai and then added 100 gecs as an opener, I couldn’t think of a crazier lineup. The SATURATIONtrilogy was the soundtrack to my first two years of college, while Nothing Great About Britainand 1000 gecshave been at the top of my music rotation since they released in May. On Nov. 30, after months of anticipation, the three acts came to the Motor City.

My journey leading up to the show was business as usual for a Detroit concert. Dump money at the gate of an overpriced parking lot, scarred by the number of $45 tickets I’ve received because I’m incapable of finding legal street parking; group up with the gang at Detroit One Coney Island on Woodward, the greatest Midtown venue pre/post-concert kickback restaurant; debate bringing a coat into the venue and stand freezing at the back of a long line either way; go to the box office at The Masonic to pick up my press ticket, and …

General admission — lower level.

This had to be a mistake. Now, I’d been ripped off once by promoters at The Masonic when I bought tickets to see BROCKHAMPTON in 2018, so I was veryfamiliar with the distinction between the “lower level” and the “pit” — lower level meant the outer ring of seats, while pit meant the actual floor. Now, there’s nothing wrong with having seats for a concert. But that is notwhat you want at a 100 gecs/slowthai/BROCKHAMPTON event, anddefinitelynot the perspective you want to read about in a concert review. Fortunately, a sincerely wonderful friend traded me her pit ticket for my lower level ticket, and it’s her act of extreme kindness that saved this review from being a purely clinical account.

My pal and I rushed into the theatre to the sight of 100 gecs’s iconic conifer tree in center stage. Laura Les and Dylan Brady were singing “ringtone,” their vocals warped and autotuned in their live show just like they are in the studio version. Thanks to the pre-show debacle, I missed “stupid horse” at the beginning of their set. This was a grave loss, one which I would mourn through the rest of the night and will continue to grieve until their next appearance in Detroit. But I did hear Laura Les’s blood-curdling growls in the flesh during the heavy metal breakdown at the end of “800db cloud,” so I could sleep comfortably at night.

Seeing the reaction from the BROCKHAMPTON crowd to 100 gecs’s live performance exposed just how much of a bubble I live in. In our hyper-art-consuming corner of The Daily, myself and many friends adore 100 gecs — I wouldn’t be surprised if my editors played 100 gecsat the Arts desk as they published this article. But for a mostly young crowd that’s into the highly accessible music of BROCKHAMPTON, such an experimental opener didn’t go over very well. In our corner of the pit, me and my fellow big Gec were jumping up and down, belting every lyric, while everyone in our surroundings was still as stone. At the very least, though, the duo had the audience’s genuine interest. A different opener of similar notoriety might have a crowd staring at their phones, but everybody at The Masonic was watching the onstage spectacle. The crowd did scream in excitement during a brief period where Laura Les shredded on the guitar, but I think most listeners were just kind of confused.

When the lights returned post-gecs, my friend and I chatted with a couple that must’ve been in their mid or late 20s who were surprised to see that they were the oldest people in the vicinity. I expected a young audience — BROCKHAMPTON’s fanbase is definitely high school and college aged — but even I was surprised to see so many people getting dropped off at the venue by their parents.

I was in the middle of some mid-concert networking with one of my new mid-20s friends (no shame) when slowthai came onstage and immediately jumped into his first song. Mildly professional conversation was definitely coming out of my mouth when slowthai spoke the seven magic words — “Kodak moment polaroid picture shake it yeh” — and I dropped whatever I was saying to chant them myself.

Since my first concert, I’ve seen dozens of shows and dozens of openers, and none of them commanded the crowd’s energy the way Tyler, the Creator did at DTE during Kid Cudi’s 2013 tour. But slowthai came pretty close (and fittingly covered Tyler’s song, “WHAT’S GOOD”). The UK rapper had the crowd echoing all his adlibs back to him — “yuh” went slowthai, “yuh” went the crowd; “brrrt” went slowthai, “brrrt” went the crowd. After a murderous performance of “Inglorious,” slowthai literally spat into a fan’s mouth. “This is fucking punk,” he said. I found it kind of gross, but yeah, it was punk.

Afterward he rapped “HEAVEN BELONGS TO YOU,” his guest feature on GINGER. The crowd seemed absurdly excited for what’s just a chill mid-album interlude. Then I realized that since it was on BROCKHAMPTON’s album, for most of the audience, it was probably the only slowthai song they knew. For his final song, “Doorman,” he opened the pit, and everyone circle-moshed in a frenzy — I somehow ended up near the very front of the pit, perfectly positioning myself for BROCKHAMPTON. slowthai put on a hell of a show, one that added him to the ranks of my favorite live performers, right up there with JPEGMAFIA and Vince Staples. I just wished his set could have been longer.

BROCKHAMPTON took the stage, the show started and it was business as usual for the boys. Dom McLennon climbed to the edge of a balcony off-stage to deliver his killer verse on “BOY BYE.” Everytime bearface opened his mouth, hands with recording phones shot up from the audience; I wished I had my own phone ready when he did his raspy whisper intro from “I BEEN BORN AGAIN.” Merlyn Wood, who already breathes life into BROCKHAMPTON in the studio, doubled down on his adrenaline-infused delivery for all his verses.

Traditionally, Kevin Abstract and Matt Champion have been the meat and potatoes of BROCKHAMPTON, especially on the SATURATIONtrilogy. But I am a firm believer that Joba is the heart and soul of GINGER, and he proved it that night. Half of my notes on the show were just song titles followed by “holy shit Joba.” Among those highlight moments were Joba’s gorgeous voice on the outro of “BOY BYE,” his stunning verse on “BIG BOY” and his terrifying rage on “J’OUVERT.”

Performances from the band were show-stopping and jaw-dropping all around — no surprise there — but I had mixed feelings about all the other elements of the concert. When BROCKHAMPTON first came on, slowthai had me full of hype. Then a pattern in the show started to emerge, and before long, I almost regretted trading my ticket for the pit. After the first few songs, the drill became clear: Overuse of the smoke machines onstage, and if Kevin wasn’t already telling the crowd to open the pit, then the same high-school-senior-looking dude in the audience was on the job. Over and over and over. It got old by the twelfth time in less than half as many songs.

I can’t knock BROCKHAMPTON for their audience. It is what it is. But there’s something comforting about being able to go to a show, look at all the people in line, and think, “I could be good friends with these people.” That was not the vibe at BROCKHAMPTON. I was mildly perturbed when, during the chorus of “1999 WILDFIRE,” Kevin kept yelling “SING IT!” to the overwhelmingly white crowd (The chorus drops a couple N-words). During “SUGAR,” while bearface chanted “Do you love me, love me, love me,” a girl behind me — who looked like she came straight out of BROCKHAMPTON Stan Twitter — screamed back, “I DOLOVE YOU!” on the verge of tears. The band pulled several fans onstage during “QUEER,” which was cool to see, but their youth cemented that I was too old to be there (and I’m literally only 20 years old).

With all those ups and downs, the experience was a rollercoaster. The final verdict on the concert is that BROCKHAMPTON is worth seeing live once before they break up, but once is enough, and watching from the lower level seats will do just fine. Every member proved that they’re infinitely talented, just not in any way that wasn’t already obvious from their studio recordings. As for slowthai and 100 gecs, I already immensely anticipated their acts, and now I’m even more eager to see them again — when they’re the headliners, that is. 

Until then.