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Review: Brockhampton at The Fillmore

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Brockhampton is a boy band, not a collective (don’t get it twisted), but it’s not hard to see why one of 2017’s breakout musical groups often gets branded as such. Musically, much of their discography employs a cypher-style free association dialogue among the band’s seven performers, with more pop-inspired vocal cuts from Kevin Abstract (the group’s creative leader) serving as hooks that make the band feel more NYSNC than Wu Tang. External to performance, Brockhampton employs an arsenal of producers, graphic designers, photographers, and webmasters–all of whom are considered members of the band–to cultivate an immersive suite of online content and creating a deep lore of personnel that contribute to the band’s collective product. 

With so many moving parts, I was excited to see how Brockhampton would metabolize on stage at the Fillmore Silver Spring as the band neared the halfway point of the Love Your Parents Tour–what I was left with was an unforgettable and energetic performance from a band that pulls no punches and shows no signs of slowing down. 

Their show began with the members of Brockhampton entering en masse to “BOOGIE,” the opening track from their most recent studio effort Saturation III. Each member wore an orange jumpsuit (one of the aesthetic through lines of the Saturation trilogy) and jumped across the stage while contributing various ad libs and group vocals to the performance, at points diverging from the lyrics of the song to lead chants encouraging members JOBA and Merlyn to dance. Seeing each member jump about in matching jumpsuits with a raucous, occasionally goofy energy demonstrated succinctly to me why the group chose to embrace a label more similar to that of a pop group.

Brockhampton took some time following “BOOGIE” to engage in audience banter, complete with throwing a cutout of Harry Styles into the pit and leading a “fuck Pitchfork” chant, before bulldozing through a dozen bangers from the Saturation trilogy, including “GUMMY,” “SWAMP,” “GOLD,” and “JELLO,” the last of which featured well-controlled spitfire verse by member Matt Champion. The group’s collective energy is contagious on multiple levels, never letting up among the crowd (who kept the venue shaking) who in turn enabled Brockhampton to continue to build even as they navigated between their more popular songs (such as “SWEET”) and deeper cuts from the three albums they released last year. Even with Kevin Abstract under the weather and struggling to sing or rap, the rest of Brockhampton was able to fill in his vocal hooks and verses, continuously pushing the evening’s energy to a fever pitch.

This made it all the more pleasantly surprising when one of the evening’s highlights was bearface’s performance of “SUMMER,” the down tempo closing track of Saturation II, complete with Scorpions-style guitar solo that primed the audience for the evening’s finale“HEAT,” a song prefaced by member Ameer Vann as a catharsis through which the audience could vent their anger regarding “your parents” or “a shitty job.” 

Perhaps what I found most energizing about Brockhampton’s performance, however, was how the group’s aesthetic brand and musical subject matter was able to create an instantaneous sense of community on a school night in Silver Spring. Throughout the crowd, one could spot dozens of young attendees sporting orange jumpsuits or with blue painted faces, fervently wilding out and having a great night. It was easy to find parallels between a Brockhampton show in 2018 and an Odd Future show in 2011, both groups acting as catalysts to unite kids who feel different or alienated through a performance that mirrors that diversity in its members and subject matter (Kevin Abstract’s 2016 release American Boyfriend specifically channels the pitfalls and challenges of a queer adolescence). Outside of the band’s stage performance, Brockhampton’s ability to energize, excite and unite a youthful crowd through a positive, unbridled ethos represents the sort of bonding experience necessary for teenagers and young adults in 2018–a feeling of inter-connectedness that most bands can only begin to grasp. Maybe that’s what makes them the greatest boy band in the world.