Brockhampton packed Highline Ballroom twice in one night (pics, review, videos)
The best motherfuckin' boy band in the world, Brockhampton, brought their first official tour to NYC for two shows (early and late) at Highline Ballroom. The shows had sold out way ahead of time, and the line for the late show was already wrapped up around 10th Ave before doors even opened. It feels safe to say that they're already ready to play much bigger venues in NYC than the (not exactly small) Highline Ballroom.
Once we got inside, it was obviously packed already, and Brockhampton's in-house DJ and producer Romil Hemnani was hyping the crowd up with a string of recent rap hits (and a clip of a new Brockhampton song). Kids were already jumping up and down, waving their arms, and rapping every word, and the show hadn't even properly started yet. Once it did start, that crowd reaction only got more insane, with several mini mosh pits breaking out throughout the show. Brockhampton only debuted their first mixtape a year ago (but they're already very prolific with two albums out and a third coming), and the crowd already knew nearly every word to every single song they played. There were a few definite fan favorites that got people more excited (at one point the crowd's cheers were louder than the DJ's bass), but the only time it got quiet was when Brockhampton hushed the crowd on purpose.
After Romil's opening DJ set, the lights dimmed and he dropped the beat to "Heat," with Ameer Vann, Merlyn Wood, Dom McLennon, Joba, Matt Champion and Kevin Abstract taking the stage one by one. Kevin is the group's founder and he's emerged as the most popular member, but he's the only one without a verse on "Heat," which sort of makes it the perfect song to introduce Brockhampton. With Kevin acting as a hype man on the first song, no one felt like the group's "leader." Everyone brought something noticeably unique to the table, and the chemistry between the members was crazy. There was clearly some choreography that went into it, like when they all stood in a line hunched over with their arms swaying, looking menacing, or when they mimicked a sidewalk cypher (they are a boy band, after all), but a lot of the interplay between them felt off the cuff and natural. They knew when to triple up on a lyric and when to step back and give someone else the spotlight. They knew when to interact with the crowd, and when to just do some quirky dance.
Brockhampton have gotten a handful of comparisons to Odd Future (who, when they first started, were compared to Wu-Tang), which are easy to see. Like at those early Odd Future shows, a Brockhampton show has a ton of really talented friends on stage going absolutely fucking nuts. Everybody in Brockhampton can really rap, some of them sing, and they can yell too, like, Run-DMC-style. It's kinda refreshing to hear a rap group that sounds so modern without toning down the aggression.
The other refreshing thing is that Brockhampton's aggression isn't stereotypical, heteronormative, or toxic. One of many highlights of the show was when the openly-gay Kevin Abstract took center stage for "Junky," a song off the recent Saturation II about his struggles with his own sexuality. It's clearly a powerful song for a lot of people, as you could tell from the crowd's impassioned shouting along.
Another major highlight was "Jello," with its "la-di-da-di-da-di-da, do I trust 'em? probably not" hook that was even more of an earworm with several members of Brockhampton screaming along to it. Others were "Gold" and "Swamp," also homes of undeniable hooks that had everyone in the venue screaming. And another was the encore of "Star" off Saturation I. After a solo performance of "Summer" by singer/guitarist Bearface (the Brockhampton member's only appearance of the night), a member from back stage yelled "we're not gone yet!," Romil dropped the Yeezus-esque beat to "Star," and, like they've been doing this whole tour, Brockhampton played the song at least five times in a row. In case you're wondering if people got tired of that, they didn't. It was after midnight at this point and every run-through still had the crowd screaming along. Brockhampton probably could've played the song five more times and people would've still went nuts.
Pictures of the late Highline Ballroom show are in the gallery above. A few videos of the show and a tour video that the group filmed in Chicago are below.
The tour continues in Cambridge tonight (9/12), and wraps up with an appearance at Tyler the Creator's Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival.
photos by Jose A. Alvarado Jr.