Live review: Odd Future @ the Ogden TheatreBy Sam DeLeo | October 10th, 2011 | 1 Comment »
It’s true the teenagers in Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, the hip-hop collective from L.A., like to swear, joke around, skateboard, spew insults and generally not give a damn what you think about any of it. In 2011, apparently, this is news.
It’s also true that the group’s baseline refusal to play along and be nice has been one of the very drivers of their popularity, leading to appearances on “Jimmy Fallon,” record deals with labels like XL and Fat Possum, a pilot on Adult Swim, book contracts, videos, even newspaper columns. What we’re supposed to conclude from this paradox might be best left to the ivory academies of intellectuals. Even the oddest futures defy prophecy. As group leader Tyler, the Creator (now 20) has remarked, he could soon find himself either back in community college or clutching a Grammy. Thankfully, Odd Future’s appearance at the packed Ogden Theatre last night shook all these concerns loose with a thrilling performance.
With the crowd chanting “Wolf Gang,” DJ Syd, the collective’s only female member, took the stage and thumped the room into a froth with the band’s trademark crushing beats. What followed from the cast of MCs was spectacle in its best sense —- skills, showmanship, humor and unpredictability. Unlike most hip-hop crews, Wolf Gang shouted a lot of their verses in unison, scattering their considerable energy across the stage and occasionally pushing it out of control: “When all you motherf#*$&ers sing in the mic,” yelled Tyler, “it f#@&s me up!”
Domo Genesis broke out with the title track from his solo album “Rolling Papers,” and, to a sappy “La, la, la” opening chorus, Tyler riffed through “Tron Cat” with lines about snorting Hitler’s ashes and Satan’s growing jealousy of the group. Wearing one black glove and carrying a Star Wars light saber, Mike G. took on “Everything That’s Yours” with “Iceberg cool,” and whether he meant Iceberg Slim or an actual iceberg didn’t matter —- the crowd was theirs. Stage dives may not usually merit mentions, but when they occur from the second-floor balconies, one takes note. By show’s end, even the Ogden’s security personnel had been pulled into the maelstrom.
Odd Future kept the mood light even through its punishing beats. Tyler’s request for student IDs brought a full flight from the all ages crowd, which even tossed some driver’s licenses on stage for good measure. “Denver, don’t use condoms, they’re bad for you,” and “I like to see chaos in this song because it makes me feel I did something for the community” exemplified the group’s frequent stage banter. But the focus remained on the music. After the ID stunt, the group immediately tore into a blistering version of “Splatter” from 2010’s “Radical.”
So just what is this Wolf Gang rebelling against? As Brando said almost 60 years ago in “The Wild One,” “Whaddaya’ got?” It’s tempting to ponder what intrigue, fame or failure lies ahead for the group, even with what all the hype obscures. (As one Denver hip-hop veteran said of Odd Future, “Everyone thought the Beastie Boys were a joke. Then came ‘Paul’s Boutique.’”) It’s more fun to experience the band as it is now.
Sure, you may wish them to be more specific about the goals of their mischief at times, to come clean about what they really see as their “cause.” But, at least for now, it’s pretty clear Odd Future prefers that job to be theirs, not ours.
Denver-based writer Sam DeLeo is a published poet, has seen two of his plays produced and is currently finishing his second novel.