“Why are we next to the pit AGAIN?” my concert buddy yelled over the excited yelps and yips of the coming storm. The moshing commenced as we fled to safety, clutching my phone to get a video of the madness and knowing that one bump from another audience member could send it flying. As the beat dropped to “SISTER,” the whole crowd pushed forward like it was one being, one organism with an incomprehensible amount of force. This was the energy that Brockhampton brought that night.
Brockhampton, also known as “The Best Boyband since One Direction,” is a 14-member rap collective with a loyal, and growing, following. Their greatly anticipated latest album (seriously, they changed the release date, like, 7 times), titled Iridescence, landed #1 Album in the U.S. Their first three albums, released as a trilogy set called Saturation I-III, set in stone fan favorites like “SWEET,” “STAR,” and “GOLD,” among many others. The boy band have also gained icon status with their unique visuals, from painting themselves blue and wearing jumpsuits for Saturation-era videos and performances, to using a multi-colored iridescent motif for their latest release.
As a Brockhampton fan/stan for over a year, I was so excited to see them live, especially after hearing that their live shows go hard. We got to the venue, Terminal 5, a little late for GA, so we were way in the back at first and didn’t have the best view. I was craning my neck to see Kevin Abstract enter the stage to start off the set with the emotional and poetic WEIGHT, a single spotlight on him. Afterwards, the rest of the (performing) members, Dom McLennon, Merlyn Wood, Joba, Matt Champion and Bearface, floated on stage in the hazy blue light. Getting the beat going, they hiked up the energy by playing the title track on the new album, “NEW ORLEANS,” and the crowd literally went wild.
In a world of music elitism, it was so refreshing to go to a show where both the performers and crowd were just uninhibited in their enjoyment. Yes, being thrown around the room as people are moshing can get a little much, but the intensity of everything made the experience memorable. All around me were people rapping and singing every word, and often the band would stop during or after their songs to get everyone to sing along. They integrated the audience in a way that they became part of the show, turning the camera which projected the group’s images behind them to the audience every time we would share these moments with them. It was so beautiful being in a room of thousands of people, all of us connected as we sang the opening hook to “BLEACH,” “Who got the feeling? / Tell me why I cry when I feel it / Tell me why / Tell me whyyYYyyyy…” I can’t imagine how special that must have been for the band, who have been through a lot this past year.
Earlier in the spring of 2018, Ameer Vann, a former member of the band, was kicked out after sexual misconduct allegations arose. This caused a ton of controversy, and fans were divided. Personally, I was horrified by the allegations, and was glad to see that he would be held accountable for his actions in an industry that glorifies known sexual assault perpetrators. However, I wondered how the band would regroup after losing a member, especially one with many verses on their songs and who had also become the visual center of the group, as the subject of their first three album covers.
Honestly, I could safely say that during the concert I was not missing him. The six members killed it, and you could tell by their interactions with one another and their excitement as they hopped around onstage that they loved what they were doing. There were a few songs where I remembered that Ameer had verses there that were either taken out or ad libbed over, but they did an incredible job of making those songs seamless, which I know must have been difficult. Nevertheless, they have come out of hard times back and better than ever, and I cannot wait to see what they have in store next.
Highlights of the night included “SAN MARCOS,” when the six of them all laid on the floor for the whole performance, the camera facing them from above so we all saw the boys staring into the stars. “GUMMY,” “J’OUVERT,” “DISTRICT,” “HONEY,” and “SISTER” were my favorites of the night, and for the encore they played their latest non-album releases, “1999 WILDFIRE” and “1998 TRUMAN,” as well as one of their most hype songs of all: “BOOGIE.” They performed each song with incredible affect, with individualized and personal lyrics that address racism and homophobia, mental health and drug dependency, success in the music industry, and the pure, unadulterated pleasures of letting loose, having fun, and flexing gold chains. They kept the audience active by encouraging the members of the pit to keep it open and moving, and by their spirited performance. Interspersed between songs were filmed interviews of the band, with both standard and quirky questions like, “Who’s your favorite artist?” and “How do you feel about sex?” Each member of the band compliments each other so well, and it was incredible getting to see each of their talents highlighted in the live performance, from Bearface’s melodic singing to Joba’s fiery scream-rapping to Dom’s thought-provoking lyrics to Merlyn’s signature tongue-in-cheek one-liners (re: “Head was cleeeaaan Tony Fantano) to Kevin’s memorable raps and warm stage presence to Matt’s grungy voice and aesthetic. I would gladly be relentlessly flung across the room, push through several tall men blocking my view, and have lights and lasers flash into my eyes to see them live again.