If Wu Tang, Iggy Pop and the Flaming Lips threw a birthday party, it might approximate Odd Future's swag-as-hell show Saturday night at House of Blues Sunset.
Swinging stateside amidst their first European tour, the horrorcore collective took the stage in full force: all members of Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All were in attendance for the hometown gig, save for the notable and controversial absence of 17-year-old Earl Sweatshirt.
Our expectations were admittedly sky-high after catching their riot-inciting performance last month at Barcelona's Primavera Sound Festival. But even without a crowd of football-crazed, politically pissed-off Spaniards to fuel the fire, Odd Future worked the local crowd into a frenzy with the carnal carnival of their stage antics.
Love 'em or hate 'em--there ain't no in-between--there's no denying that a concert including everything from backup dancers to balloon drops to broken bones is nothing short of riveting. Here's the top five moments from Saturday's show that convinced us OFWGKTA is L.A.'s best young live act:
5. Tyler, the Creator's a
walking hopping paradox: At some point between leaping out from under the DJ booth and diving into the crowd during opener "Sandwitches," OFWGKTA leader Tyler broke his foot:
So when Hodgy Beats announced that he would be unable to perform, the crowd's groan was somewhere between concerned and disappointed--until Tyler jumped (albeit on one leg) back onstage minutes later with a newly-bandaged foot.
"Where's my mom? I know she nervous as fuck right now," he said, noting that an ambulance was on the way. "I wanna cry so bad right now, but I'm gonna try to swag this one out."
But when the paramedics were of no immediate help, advising him to instead see a doctor, Tyler opted for a wave of his middle finger, returning to the stage against the wishes of his manager and somehow managing to jump, snarl and convulse his way from one end of the stage to the other--sometimes as if nothing had happened at all, and at others, against visible grimaces of pain.
In moments when that pain was inevitably too much, Tyler took a seat at center stage, lending an especially haunting, solitary quality to tracks like "Bastard."
"Fuck anybody that leave here and say my performance with a fucked up foot was horrible. That was the tightest shit ever!" he said following "Yonkers."
While the group did have to cancel Sunday's San Francisco gig due to the injury, Tyler's commitment to not only finishing, but powering through, Saturday's set proved him to be the kind of performer other artists should take note from (while also taking note of his tweet from the same night: @fucktyler Karma Is A Bitch. I Threw Orange Juice At Some Bitch This Week Out Of A Car. Fuck.).
4. Frank Ocean's cameo during "She" - Because nothing's lamer at a rap concert than rhyming over a sterile, pre-recorded vocal track. Note: a few undergarments made it onto the stage for this one, including the blue bra Tyler sniffed and then sported on his neck for the duration of the show.
3. The balloon-filled dance party during "BSD": One of the best things about Odd Future as a live act is that they know when--and when not--to take themselves seriously. With the crowd's rage, energy and adrenaline at a peak following a darkly furious rendition of "French," it was time for all parties involved to let it go and have a little fun. "BSD" is a track so ridiculously obscene that it borders on being campy, so the kitchen-sink stage theatrics that accompanied it were a great fit. From the dancers brought out just for the number to the strobe lights to squirt guns to the multi-colored balloons raining down on the crowd, audience and artists alike were consumed by a childlike giddiness more akin to a Flaming Lips show than a crew of acid-tongued teens. Tyler, despite his foot, managed to work it out right along with the dancers, while Left Brain saw fit to putt balloons back into the crowd with a toy light saber.
2. Hodgy Beats' freestyle
Odd Future shows are nothing if not a continuous stream of shouting, chanting and general ruckus-making. Hodgy Beats' vicious, straight-to-the-jugular freestyle near the end of the set was the exception to the rule, causing the jaws of the crowd and the crew alike to drop in a moment of mute astonishment.
1. The Wolves - The real reason we love Odd Future is not because Tyler sucked it up with his foot; it's not because their stage was covered in toys and candy and balloons; it's not even because they're talented. It's because there's a unique energy at Odd Future shows, a free floating rage in the stage dives and obscenities that cements a bond and even affection between the artists and the audience--we saw it when DJ Syd Tha Kid repeatedly passed out water to the exhausted crowd, when Left Brain and Domo Genesis made sure to grab as many hands as possible and when Tyler and Hodgy gratefully took the homemade "Free Earl" cards held out by fans in support of the absent member.
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Are some of Odd Future's lyrics, if taken literally, highly offensive? Absolutely. But Saturday night we encountered folks of all ages, races and orientations shouting along to songs like "Radical" in the same pissed off, empowered way, breaking a taboo together. Still, what Odd Future represents is not pretty; it's even problematic. But so was punk rock. And like punk (some might argue that Odd Future is punk), their rage is unabashedly honest. And these days, we could use a little more of that. We could use a few more young people like Tyler and co. who are pissed off rather than apathetic; we could use a little more of their knuckle-cracking ingenuity. And if you don't like how this Wolf Gang is doing it, go start one of your own.