Live: Machine Gun Kelly Throws Himself A Homecoming Of Sorts At The Gramercy Theater


Machine Gun Kelly
Gramercy Theater
Sunday, May 22

Better than: Going to the gym.

Machine Gun Kelly onstage is like a Nintendo character, if someone kept pressing the B button. His feet touch the ground about as often as his knees hit his chest; he looks like he learned to walk on a Dance Dance Revolution board. With his body in constant motion, the stage–regardless of the size–seems too small. And yet, the vocals never falter: rapid-fire raps from a rapid-fire name. His breath control is a wonder! It’s as if Machine Gun Kelly’s the son of Mathew Knowles, who famously made the young girls of Destiny’s Child run around a high school track while belting out their songs, to improve their lung strength.

Near the end of the night, MGK’s shoulders barely wavered, his breath steadied, a half-hour performance/calisthenic workout already under his belt. He paced the length of the stage, saying, “I just want to thank everyone who’s been rocking with me and riding with me. I don’t have any major backing, so I just want to thank all of my day one fans.” A pause, and then he launched–really, launched–into his next song, the “Airplanes”-like “End of the Road.”

In the back of the room, just one hundred feet away, Bad Boy’s top promo man Hen Roc sang along. (His not-quite-whispered “I love this song!” did not go unheard.) Harve Pierre, Diddy’s consigliere, stood next to him and bobbed his head.

Oblivious to all of the industry gossiping was a crowd of about 300 kids who had come to see Machine Gun Kelly. The night felt like a high-school dance; Gramercy Theatre, with its heavy red curtains and auditorium seating, tends to have that effect anyway. But drink bracelets were few and far between, and the 21-year-old from Cleveland treated the show like his small-town homecoming: he pointed out a fan who had driven out to the Bamboozle Fest in New Jersey and waited for him at the fence without a ticket. He dedicated a song to her, before noticing another girl in the crowd: “Oh my god, I know you from Twitter! What’s your name? Barbie Margaret something? Yea!”

Doing an exaggerated Dougie, the Matrix, and a appropriation of Kid-N-Play’s shoe-tap, Machine Gun Kelly literally danced around the stage. He smiled. He crumpled to the ground when the drummer of his band–which was so tightly oiled, by the way–punctuated an off-the-cuff joke with a rim-shot. He looked like a kid having fun while living his rock-star dreams; this was especially true when he dove into the audience for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and covering “What’s My Age Again?”

Rumors have long swirled that Machine Gun Kelly has, despite his faux-protestations, been signed to Bad Boy Records. (Diddy tracked down MGK at SXSW’s Fader Fort, flirted with him on Twitter, and has hired him as the opening act for Diddy-Dirty Money’s “Coming Home” tour.) As someone familiar with the situation said last night, “You can only keep a secret for so long.”

Overheard: “My name is Machine Gun Kelly. If you don’t know who I am, you’re a goddamn idiot, because this is my show.” Also: “Put your cell phones up. If you don’t got a cell phone, it’s 2011.”

Critical bias: For five years, my brother worked in Cleveland for the Cavaliers. So, when MGK says “Fuck Lebron,” I say it with him.

Random notebook dump: How were there two–two!–girls wandering around the audience with the bald-side Cassie look of 2009?

Set list:
What It Seems
Smells Like Teen Spirit
Hell Yeah
Get Laced (Cleveland Wins)
I Know
Stereo (feat. The Kickdrums)
End of the Road
Blaze Up
Chip Off the Block
What’s My Age Again? (Blink 182 cover)