Canton Hall has a similar size and shape to its next door neighbor, the Bomb Factory. I was told before the evening that the sold out show would include over one thousand people. I cannot picture what one thousand people would look like in any situation. I can barely imagine one hundred people. Once the number exceeds twenty, I generally think it’s unnecessary to refer to the amount as anything more specific than “a lot.”
It hit me like a punch to the stomach. I rushed to find the restroom, washed my hands, and I was handed two paper towels by a diligent employee. As I attempted to wade back to where I began, I met my savior: a fellow showgoer with a tennis ball can full of traffic-cone-orange earplugs. A hero giving out earplugs for free. The angel manning the fence of purgatory. I met the benevolent guardian and accepted my defense.
In Gaspar Noé’s film Enter The Void, the protagonist’s consciousness escapes their body and floats above the city, examining events that follow their death. In clubs, the music feels underwater, the bass pulsating underneath the viewer’s skin. With my foam earplugs firmly nestled, at 8:30 P.M. sharp on March 27th, 2019, I felt that same escape, as MC Ride moaned “UHH,” into the mic, to the elation of one thousand confused youths standing in an empty bar.
“What need have we for visuals?” the holy Death Grips probably asked when planning a nationwide tour. They settled for simultaneously the most simple and most overwhelming visual: a bright, blood-red LED screen from ceiling to floor behind the three musicians. Imagine the wall of lava in Syndrome’s island from The Incredibles, but you feel like you’ll never get out. I could never see the performers’ entire faces, only silhouettes and backlit
forms. Zach Hill’s shaggy hair went from an airy puff to a sweat-drenched mop. Flatlander convulsed behind the production table. MC Ride fluctuated from hyping the crowd up on day 1 of a festival to screaming in terror as his legs melted from under his bare torso. All of this occurring as low end frequencies apply pressure to my jaw and neck and the oppression of the inescapable solid red filled the hall and numbed our bodies.
Of all the bands I’d imagine would be courteous enough to get their underage fans home at a decent hour, Death Grips would be the last group that’d come to mind. Lo and behold, the band are a no-BS act, which I can’t not respect. The performance began at 8:30 sharp and ended exactly 60 minutes later. Additionally, we got 2 tracks from Exmilitary, 5 from the Money Store, 2 from No Love Deep Web, 2 from Government Plates, 1 from The Powers That B, 3 From Bottomless Pit, 1 from Steroids, and 2 from Year of The Snitch. A decent balance! I generally consider Death Grips an avant-garde group, so hearing them play “the hits” was an unexpected pleasure for me to experience.
It still feels like it was a dream, because of how quickly it passed. Just a blurry, rumbly onslaught of punishing hype music filled with violence and euphoria, like sitting on the fence between life and death, waiting to fall into one or the other. As if I found myself in the hotseat of Enter The Void, I could never quite tell if I was alive or undead.