As much a disrupter as a performer, slowthai put on a show that matched the startling nature of his lyrics.
The Echo,Los Angeles, CA
Though I grow closer to the age where my participation in them leads to more bruises than euphoria, mosh pits still make shows look exciting. Standing still at concerts, though sometimes warranted, is the norm in the age of Instagram, and rarely do I see a show where the whole crowd actually dances; choreo comes difficultly in a cramped, indoor venue. So, it gave me great, nostalgic joy to see rising UK rapper slowthai swell his audience into a mosh pit (even if I was carrying my camera).
Watching an act as critically acclaimed as slowthai play a venue as intimate as the Echo presented a fascinating, up-close look at an emerging performer. Though set to play Brixton’s O2 Academy, a capacity of 3000+, he spent a Wednesday night playing for maybe 300+ people inside a small room off Sunset Boulevard.
Before slowthai made his entrance, Kelvin Krash hyped the Echo with a few wise choices. Selections from Princess Nokia and M.I.A. came littered throughout his set, with the choice of “Teqkilla” feeling especially appropriate as the night centered around another English MC. For his part, Krash brings a bit of menace with his own synths, which built up the eventual arrival of the man of the evening.
As much a disrupter as a performer, slowthai put on a show that matched the startling nature of his lyrics. He sang lines like “Shotgun shells turn your face pizza” while shedding his clothes, a trick he reportedly does at all his shows. He removed each layer at different stages, losing his socks, his shirt and his shorts until all that remained were his boxer briefs with “slowthai” emblazoned across the waistband. Far from self-conscious, he cavorted about the stage, with his studio partner Kwes Darko joining him in the revelry. Both looked as excited to thrash around a small venue as they would be in front of thousands, and that energy was channeled to the audience.
Though only a couple hundred people made it to this show, those who came responded with such fervor that it excused what would otherwise be considered rude behavior. If someone stepped on your shoes or bumped against your drink, you couldn’t really complain; you decided to stay in a mosh pit.
Plus, the possibility of doing anything other than mosh to a song like “Doorman” sounds unlikely in a live setting. This upbeat, Mura Masa-produced gem, along with others like “Inglorious” and “Why You Wet” resulted in wild but relatively considerate body-slamming. Ever an active maestro, slowthai conducted the audience in their actions, barking orders from the stage to run in a circle or to divide in half and shout expletives at each other. He rewarded participants with sips of water he poured into their mouths like some kind of savior. Technically, any public figure willing to call out the Queen and Theresa May is more a savior than a politician unwilling to do the same. He also left the audience with a different but no less important bit of information: “Always make sure your girl cums.” Slowthai’s parting shot, the unreleased Denzel Curry track (that I believe he) called “Psych Ward,” opened with strings drawing an appropriate reference to Hitchcock’s Psycho and was delivered with the same rambunctious and slightly ominous energy you expect from him, leaving the audience craving more.