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Embracing Brockhampton

By and

Several minutes after hearing BROCKHAMPTON’s especially playful mic check, their superfans rushed the meadow at Frost Amphitheatre. Most caught the ire of security personnel and slowed their all-out sprint, appeasing them by blurring the line between power walking and light jogging. Though the boyband was a couple hours away from performing, an especially lively lineup of 100 Gecs and slowthai elevated the night’s already restless excitement. A spooky green washed the stage as 100 Gecs entered from stage right with a pine tree similar to that depicted on the cover of their breakout album “1000 Gecs.” As soon as they began the set with “Stupid Horse,” the audience quickly divided into two camps: those who sang along to Dylan Brady and Laura Les’ autotuned croons, and those who hadn’t heard about 100 Gecs until just then. With a strong and playful performance of what could possibly be described as nightcore trap, 100 Gecs definitely left the show as the most googled artist of the night. 

As the stage set up for slowthai, fans began murmuring and wondering what would come from his performance. His quick rise was aided by his hypnotic verses on BROCKHAMPTON’s most recent project “GINGER” and Tyler, The Creator’s “IGOR.” BROCKHAMPTON’s tour is even named after “GINGER”’s track “HEAVEN BELONGS TO YOU,” a track only featuring a verse from slowthai, so fans who only came for BROCKHAMPTON already had a taste for what was to come. The stage lights flipped on to signal slowthai’s imminent entrance, and they painted the stage in an especially hazy red. This aesthetic set the mood for the ensuing performance, one that matched both slowthai’s energetic showmanship and the enraged malaise of his recent “Nothing Great About Britain” debut. Not one to shy away from his fans, the British rapper even brought up a fan to help him perform his hit “Inglorious.” With every passing song, onlookers quickly accumulate into ever-growing mosh pits until the final song of his set, the punk rap crossover “Doorman.” Then they mosh even harder.

After slowthai’s set, the crowd impatiently huddled for 30 minutes, occasionally screaming when a new figure — always security or tech personnel —  appeared from behind the black curtains. At last, the lights dimmed. A brief remix of Rihanna’s “Stay” boomed as a wall of LED lights filled the stage with an orange glow. Three large mirrored crosses hung from the ceiling, reflecting the stage below. Suddenly “ST.PERCY”’s beat drop revealed the man himself: Kevin Abstract, master orchestrator of the 13-person hip-hop boy band BROCKHAMPTON. He commanded the audience’s full attention as he calmly rapped the opening verse with die-hard fans chanting along.

Other members joined Abstract one by one at their verse, and soon, the six performing members of the band assembled as the self-proclaimed “greatest boy band in the world.” With every appearance, the audience grew more excited, and the brutal moshing drove out lots of panicked people who screamed “let us out” and jostled their way to safety. Knowing their fans are incredibly physical and eager to mosh, BROCKHAMPTON made sure to ask during every pause, “Is everyone alright? Is everyone doing okay?” Even though the audience in Frost’s front meadow was soaked in sweat and nearly suffocated, they were 100% committed to the band — they shouted a resounding yes.

Photo: Dylan Grosz / The Stanford Daily

As the tour’s only Northern California stop, the concert attracted lots of college and high school students from The Bay – the age group was mostly late teens and early 20s, with a few rare late 20s and early 30s fans. Early on, Kevin asked, “How are we doing, Stanford?” then “Can I call you Palo Alto?” People were amusingly evenly split between “yes” and “no.”

The night’s setlist heavily featured songs from the band’s newest album, “Ginger,” but BROCKHAMPTON made sure to play beloved crowdpleasers from their debut “SATURATION” trilogy of albums released in 2017. “SATURATION III” standouts “ZIPPER” and “BLEACH” thrilled fans early on in the concert with their respective off-kilter production and earnest lyrics encapsulating themes of sorrow and guilt. “GOLD,” arguably the song that catapulted BROCKHAMPTON to fame, was a classic throwback to the first album of the trilogy, “SATURATION.” 

Constant audience participation kept the energy high throughout the night. When frequent collaborator Ryan Beatty stepped onto the stage, fans eager to hear “SUGAR” from “Ginger” whooped and applauded. At first, Kevin teased, “You know the song that goes like, ‘Spendin’ all my nights alone…’? We’re not about to do that one.” The crowd played along and protested, starting to sing Beatty’s chorus. Beatty joined in, and after a few repetitions, the instrumentals finally began playing to everyone’s delight. As the gentle guitars buoyed the Ryan Beatty’s tender chorus and Dom McLennon’s first verse, the crowd gently roared and swayed “back and forth” in unison as Abstract proclaimed the song’s bridge, easily one of the most touching moments of the night.

Though the concert equipment was simple, limited to changing light colors and smoke machine blasts at beat drops, BROCKHAMPTON’s commitment to reproducing the sometimes chaotic, frequently endearing, and always relatable charm of their songs made the concert thoroughly enjoyable. The group’s chemistry and erratic dance moves were infectious, and the members’ contrasting personalities also entertained, ranging from the more reserved bearface and Dom to the more energetic Joba, Merlyn, and Matt. 
The violent mosh pits might have been too hostile an environment for first time concertgoers. Strangely, Brockhampton encouraged several times, “Open it up in the middle!” perhaps because they knew there was no stopping the most passionate fans. Indeed, the most intense moment in the night was the “DISTRICT”-“J’OUVERT”-“BOOGIE” run near the end of the concert. As three of Brockhampton’s most abrasive and cathartic songs, this sequence helped maintain the night’s excitement until an especially tender rendition of “NO HALO” closed out the night on a more vulnerable note. BROCKHAMPTON surely delivered the show their fans deserved, even staying to take selfies with fans who clawed their way to the front of the crowd. Meticulously lit, planned and performed, BROCKHAMPTON’s performance art has come a long way since their early days on 2017’s “Jennifer’s Tour.” 42 released songs and a major record label deal later, BROCKHAMPTON could have entertained Stanford/Palo Alto all night, but the boys had a curfew to respect. BROCKHAMPTON concerts are guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience with an exhilarating atmosphere and music.

Contact Dylan Grosz at dgrosz ‘at’ stanford.edu and Nadia Jo at nejo ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Dylan is a senior majoring in Symbolic Systems and Economics. He very much enjoys playing guitar, listening to music, and reading FiveThirtyEight. As the Data Visualizations Director for the Stanford Daily, Dylan hopes to offer his data-driven approach to journalism as a vessel for others to navigate the vast, stormy seas of society. He will also usually do so in an overly dramatic metaphor.