Created on a Kanye West fan forum, experimental rap collective Brockhampton’s rise to the top has been a breath of fresh air to watch. It was clear that most of the PNE audience had been there since day one.
Brockhampton couldn’t have picked a better opener to introduce the upcoming night of quirky and off-kilter hip-hop beats.
100 Gecs is easily one of the most avant-garde artists right now, delivering auto-tuned nightcore romps through just about every discernible genre of music. The duo of electronic producers Laura Les and Dylan Brady, who was wearing a tall wizard hat, confused and amused the audience with their constantly disorienting style.
As the opening rumbling bass notes of “ST. PERCY” played, de facto leader Kevin Abstract walked out first, standing in the center of the stage alone and confidently surveying his domain. One by one, each of the group’s six members walked out to a new flurry of cheers to deliver their own verse.
Dressed in matching orange overalls, it was incredible to see the interplay between the six vocalists all night. Pushing each other around and acting as hype men, their strong bonds were easy to see. They built each other up to their best.
Dropping immediately into the bombastic “IF YOU PRAY RIGHT,” it was impossible to take your eyes off the stage, because someone was always off doing a goofy dance in a corner when they weren’t on the mic.
Still, all the energy revolved around Abstract. With a much calmer demeanor, he was in control of the crowd while his groupmates jumped wildly around him.
The stage design was one of the strongest aspects of the show. Divided into six sections, it was set up like a “Player Select” screen. Featuring a slanted section between two platforms, members sat waiting at the top, in their personal segment of the stage, and literally slid down to the front when it was time for their verse.
Brockhampton have always curiously insisted on branding themselves as a “boy band,” but their form of uncoordinated coordination made it clear why. They very rarely came together in synchronized movement, but when they did it was a powerful moment.
Most of Brockhampton’s songs are structured so that the hardest verse comes last, so the crowd built up in anticipation before letting loose every time. “I BEEN BORN AGAIN” was no exception. The group stood hunched over in a circle like conspiring witches before Matt Champion demolished his closing verse.
Blinding rainbow lights flashed during Kevin Abstract’s verse in “BLEACH,” a track from the group’s debut album where Abstract makes his sexuality abundantly clear. One of the first rappers on his level to be openly gay, Abstract has since opened the door for others.
Merlyn Wood certainly challenged Abstract for the stage presence title at times with incendiary verses and hilarious dances, while Joba’s near-horrorcore delivery elevated the dramatics of tracks like “DISTRICT” and “J’OUVERT.”
During closer “NO HALO,” which Abstract noted was the group’s “favourite song,” a fan threw her phone on stage. Abstract picked it up and started walking around the stage, filming his group members as they delivered their verses before returning it to her.
Nearly half of the set actually focused on their introductory Saturation trilogy, but the crowd response was at its highest for the older material.
For a run of tracks that included “GOLD,” “GUMMY” and “QUEER,” the group brought out a couch as if they were sitting at home and writing rhymes.
The focus on Saturation was interesting, as the group had to cut out the verses from departed member Ameer Vann. He appears alone on the cover art of all three of the albums, but was since removed from the group after sexual abuse allegations.
Much of Ginger details the group’s difficulties in dealing with the transitional period. Getting back on the road and delivering a show of this calibre shows that the brotherhood in Brockhampton is still as strong as ever.