Sunday In New York: Death Grips Give Rock Beach A Demonic Chill


In Waste Of Paint, our writer/artist team of Jamie Peck and Debbie Allen will review goings-on about town in words and images.

Spurred on by our desire to get away from the cement inferno our city had become, Debbie and I ventured to what seemed like the ends of the Earth (or at least the city) yesterday for the second installment of Jelly NYC’s Rock Beach concert series. Although it’s only about ten miles from Williamsburg, former military base Floyd Bennett Field seems like another time and place entirely, surrounded as it is by acres of overgrown fields, marinas, beaches and marshland. It’s also right next to the Aviator Sports and Events Center, which tempts sweaty concertgoers with a year-round ice skating rink. (Maybe next time.)

We arrived to find all our favorite diversions from Jelly parties past and more: inflatable slip n’ slide, actual above ground pools, shirtless guys playing dodge ball, and plenty of cold beer. The only thing missing? A whole lot of people. But what the crowd lacked in numbers, it more than made up for in enthusiasm; there were two bikini-clad girls in particular who never stopped dancing, even when the music got sort of confusing to move to. (Hats off to you, dancing bikini girls.)

The first band, Brooklyn’s Night Manager, did not present the bikini twins any problems. With a straightforward line-up of drums, bass, guitar, and a singer who only sings (a relative rarity on the indie rock scene), they filled the large outdoor space with beachy, breezy pop. Although their recordings to date are fairly lo-fi, Jelly’s fancy sound system served them well, letting their catchy progressions and ’90s-dissonant passages ring out clearly. Caitlin Seager’s strong, lilting voice was tickling something in me, and I eventually realized: she sounded kind of like Dolores O’Riordan from the Cranberries! (To The Faithful Departed was one of the first cassettes I owned.)

Next, Portland’s Miracles Club played a set of electronic music that would’ve seemed more at home in a courtyard full of people doing that up-and-down techno dance, but the clubby beats and samples seemed well-received enough (even if the audience members didn’t all get up from their seats). Honey Owens, who also records as Valet, added a human element with her dreamy vocals, and the accompanying dance was dubbed “mime-hop” by Debbie, because it was performed by a mime. At the end of the last song, Owens improvised some lyrics about her current surroundings: “Let’s slip and slide and dodgeball all day, and get sunburned and peel it off each other under the wide night sky.” Done, done and done.


A quick game of Marco Polo later, Bass Drum of Death showed their name to be tongue-in-cheek by regaling us with a set of fun, punky garage rock. Although it didn’t quite earn the “death” descriptor, the aforementioned percussion instrument was put to good use; skillful mic-ing placed the kit much higher in the mix than it is on the band’s recent debut full-length, and drummer Colin Sneed didn’t squander the floor. Nor did singer/guitarist John Barrett, who had matched his baseball cap to his teal guitar, and who swung his mop to and fro as he sang lyrics like “I got a velvet itch in my jeans.” Many in attendance seemed eager to scratch it.

Headlining the day was Death Grips, who people have tried to describe using reference points like David Foster Wallace and Antipop Consortium, or phrases like “the hip-hop version of Lightning Bolt,” and “Odd Future’s angry dad.” None of these are totally wrong (DFW might be a bit of a stretch), but they still don’t quite describe everything going on. At the center of the buzz is frontman MC Ride, who did a better job storming around onstage and looking super pissed than almost anyone I’ve seen in recent memory. (Fellow Sacramento-an Lee Spielman of Trash Talk comes to mind.) With a huge collection of Satanic tattoos and lyrics like “I am the beast I worship,” Ride is either an active Satanist or very, very fascinated with those who are. Bolstered by drummer Zach Hill’s relentless pounding and some minimal bleeps, Ride gave us more than half an hour of pure, unbridled aggression—much of which, one senses, is directed inwards. Throw in a recording of Charles Manson talking and some nursery rhyme lines like “all fall down,” and you have yourself a nice, chilling experience. Perhaps because they hadn’t heard anything quite like this before, the audience stopped splashing/sitting and congregated up front. Some tried to dance to Ride’s strange, syncopated phrasing, but many just cocked their heads and tried to parse what exactly was assaulting their ears.