Boy band on demand
This SN&R writer isn’t buying what boy bands are selling. Will BROCKHAMPTON change her mind?
“Who’s your favorite?” This is the essential question the boy band structure beckons: There are many members to choose from, so who is the boy siren singing just for you?
Historically, I’ve had an aversion to boy bands. Dough-faced boy scouts dancing around like industry puppets, crooning vague romantic sentiments. As a moody, queer, mixed-ethnicity kid growing up in a sleepy California suburb—what boy bands were selling, I wasn’t buying.
Almost two decades later, enter BROCKHAMPTON. A self-proclaimed boy band born of the internet age who connected on a Kanye West fan forum and now live in a big house together in Los Angeles, dropping albums with such speed and fervor you’d think their lifestyles depended on it. (They do.) Comprised of seven—SEVEN—unique vocalists, BROCKHAMPTON might actually have something for everyone.
It’s Monday night, a school night, and I arrive at Ace of Spades to see BROCKHAMPTON on their 2018 Love Your Parents Tour. I immediately notice how young the crowd is: There is absolutely no waiting for a drink at the bar, but the line for the merch table is teeming. These kids better love their parents because concert tickets and the merch table are not cheap.
I grab a drink and settle into the wriggling, mixed crowd: This clearly isn’t a boy band for just girls. My iPhone buzzes, it’s an AirDrop alert, an encrypted peer-to-peer filesharing feature in which strangers can photobomb everyone in the vicinity who have AirDrop enabled. It’s from “Hanna’s Iphone6” asking me to accept a selfie of a stranger in this crowd who I can only assume is Hanna. “Like where’s BH amirite” the photo is captioned.
Finally, a figure in an orange jumpsuit—just like the ones in their music videos—takes the stage. It’s Ameer, the tall, dark and handsome figure that graces BROCKHAMPTON’s album covers. The other six members filter onto the stage to the rabid screams of the crowd: Dom, Merlyn, Joba, Matt Champion, Kevin Abstract and Bearface, who takes a seat on a beat-up mustard couch in the 1960s living room set of white tulip chairs and a campy old TV. That’s where he spends most of the concert, and where the other members occassionally took a seat to catch their breath.
“‘Why you always rap about bein’ gay?’ ’Cause not enough niggas rap and be gay / Where I come from, niggas get called ‘faggot’ and killed / So I’ma get head from a nigga right here,” sings the group’s founder, 21-year-old Kevin Abstract on their song “JUNKY.” The crowd knows all the words and sings along. The white members of BROCKHAMPTON serve their verses and support the choruses, but they skip over the “n-word.” The energy is insane. For two hours the boys move fluidly and emphatically through their rhymes, passing the spotlight back and forth. I’m reminded of the masterful live performances of the once-boy rappers Beastie Boys. Holy shit, this is definitely a boy band, but one unlike anything that has come before.
“Shut the hell up white people!” one of the boys hollers into his mic. The crowd explodes into one of the loudest cheers of the night. I don’t know if it is part of a song, or just commentary peppered in, but that is what this crowd wanted to hear. For the record, my favorite is Ameer.