We had been waiting two hours, one spent in the queue, the other on the balcony of the converted theatre staring at an empty stage with six metal swing seats dangling from the roof and somehow we were still stoked. We were waiting for the self-styled ‘internet’s first boy-band’, Brockhampton, a Texas rap collective that blew up after releasing three albums in 2017. Some say they represent the future of hip-hop, all I knew is that I was excited as hell for the gig but also slightly anxious.
Why anxious? In May of this year Ameer Van, a founding member of the group whose face makes up the covers of all three of last year’s SATURATION albums, had multiple allegations of sexual misconduct levelled against him. He was promptly kicked out the group, a decision I agree with, but when the news broke I couldn’t help but selfishly think about how it would affect the live show I had tickets for. Ameer had a verse on basically every song Brockhampton has released up until then, I didn’t know if it’d be the same listening to the tracks I loved, each with a chunk missing. I’d seen a video of the gig they performed the day Ameer had been removed, all the members stood silently and bowed their heads when the time for his verse came up in the song. It was sad and uncomfortable, but then again so was the reality of the situation.
Three months on and any doubts I had about the concert were cast aside within minutes of Brockhampton’s six vocalists (Kevin Abstract, Matt Champion, Merlyn Wood, Dom McLennon, Joba and Bearface) running on stage to the beat of ‘1998 TRUMAN’, the second single from their upcoming album, ‘Iridescence’.
The crowd below me in the main area suddenly surge towards the stage, crushing each other against the stage barrier. Sardine analogies don’t seem to cut it, as the heads of the crowd members below look as fluid as ripples pushed the group from side to side. To be honest, even having queued for so long and seeing the cramped conditions of the pit, I was still wishing I had arrived earlier so I could be part of that electric energy below me.
But the real energy was coming from the stage.
All the members were matching, dressed in white t-shirts and black trousers, bouncing around the stage, occasionally jumping up on top of the monitor amps to deliver their verses. Always having six guys on stage meant that during one member’s verse, the other five members can act as hype-men, leading to a set that never lulled. Watching the flow of a song seamlessly jump from member to member for their verse before everyone eagerly coming back in for the chorus or hook never got old, and the groups great cohesion is on display perfectly during live performances like this, especially in songs like ‘SWEET’ where their bars seem so slick.
However, this makes it sound like the entire set was made up of completely bombastic bangers, like ‘GUMMY’ and ‘1997 DIANA’, but in fact it was very well paced and punctuated with more laidback songs, such as ‘SWAMP’ and ‘GOLD’.
Even the group’s most sombre songs made their way into the set, acting as a refreshing change of tone, two prominent examples being the excellent ‘FACE’ – involving Joba singing a gripping chorus with just Dom and Matt providing two verses throughout the song, whilst the other members took a break on the aforementioned swings in the middle of the stage; and again when Bearface got out a guitar to play the solo ‘SUMMER’ near the end of the show.
Like the rest of the setlist, the closing song was a great pick, ‘BOOGIE’, ironically the opener of their ‘SATURATION III’ album. As the brass blared through the old theatre, both the audience and the band were at the highest energy they’d been all night. It was an amazing end to an awesome gig.
Brockhampton’s new album ‘Iridescence’ is out Sept 21.