Brockhampton at the Biltmore Cabaret, 9/27/17
Last February, Kevin Abstract sold out the Biltmore Cabaret in support of his second album American Boyfriend. Last night (September 27th), he sold out the Biltmore once again but this time as part of his hip hop boy band Brockhampton.
Brockhampton are powered by a completely collaborative work dynamic, a creative philosophy of laying down whatever ideas come to mind, and the attitude that they’ll make any idea work. The band tackle personal subjects with unfettered, even confrontational, candour with the aim of de-stigmatizing realities including being gay, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts.
Although Brockhampton’s 15 members come from Florida, Connecticut, various parts of Texas, and as far as Belfast and Grenada, they now share a house in L.A. dubbed the Brockhampton Factory. Such close quarters are a necessary environment for a group that models itself after Wu-Tang Clan, Cash Money, Def Jam, and Roc-A-Fella as much as Apple, Paramount, and media companies and ad agencies in general.
Over two insanely prolific years, Brockhampton have already produced a mix-tape, two albums in 2017 (with plans to complete their SATURATION trilogy this year), and an endless stream of essentially zero-budget music videos. The band also landed their own Viceland series which premiered last spring.
With their relentless work ethic and inner-band dynamics, it’s no wonder Brockhampton instantly sold out an early Biltmore show, on a Wednesday night.
At 8 pm sharp, the listed start time, fans led a “BROOOCK-hampton, BROOOCK-hampton” chant before singing “GOLD” themselves. They even chanted “Olé”, doing anything they could to draw out the band.
Romil Hemnani, one of Brockhampton’s producers, stoked fans’ flames with a 15-minute DJ set that echoed his opening set for Abstract back in February: a frantic mash of today’s most popular hip hop songs hyped by his off-the-wall energy.
Then it was lights out.
One by one, verse by verse, the members of Brockhampton rotated on and offstage during set opener “HEAT”. Come Joba’s turn, he darted his face into the cage partition on the left side of the stage as he repeatedly yelled his line, “FUCK – YOU!!!” This was far from the first time the boys rattled and clawed at the cage like a pack of wild animals.
Brockhampton appeared in reduced numbers, but the seven of them performed with the force of 15. “JELLO” featured some of their most rapid-fire rapping, but the song still was not as intense as “JUNKY” on which each member delivered explosive verses about his personal demons.
Brockhampton tackle the personal and even the taboo, but they’re not above bragging. “You guys wanna know why Brockhampton is the best boy band in the world? ‘Cause we got this song right here.” That was how they introduced the same song the impatient fans sang earlier, “GOLD”
“You guys ready go get sad for a second?” Abstract asked. They eased into “MILK” but quickly paused the music. With hardly any vocal accompaniment by him, the fans sang, “I gotta get better at being me. (Being who I am.) I gotta get better at everything. (Being who I am.) I just want a friend that I can hang out with. (Being who I am.) Someone I can sit around, lay on my couch with. (Being who I am.)”
The fans frequently called for Bearface (another one of Brockhampton’s producers) throughout the night. Near the end of the show, they finally got a double-dose of him when, with a guitar in hand, backed only by Romil’s beats, he channeled the luminous, aquatic R&B of Frank Ocean on “WASTE”. The duo continued this submerged soul on the next song “SUMMER”.
After this breather, the rest of Brockhampton returned to go out with a bang. They traded off on the celebrity name-dropping “STAR”. Fans hung onto every word (as they did all night), but that apparently wasn’t good enough. “Vancouver! Can we do that again?” Romil asked. Always producing, a camera crew captured Brockhampton’s every move onstage. So either the band just wanted everyone to go harder, or this repeat performance was a reshoot. But then Brockhampton asked fans to form a circle on the floor, descended into the middle of the opening, and performed “STAR” a third time. Convinced the night was over, many fans had left. But Brockhampton returned to the stage and asked those who were still there (more than half the room) to form an even larger circle. “Fuck, I just got out of that!” someone said. But back in he went for the fourth and final performance of “STAR”.
Afterwards, half the room still lingered, still unconvinced the end had come. But those loyal fans should have known and taken comfort: Brockhampton work quickly. They’ll be back in Vancouver in no time, with new projects. (Oh, yes. Brockhampton will have more than one by then.) And if promoters are smart, they will jump on a chance to bring Brockhampton back for no doubt another sold out show.
BROCKHAMPTON set list:
19. “STAR” (encore)