*Review by Raf Richardson-Carillo
Thank God for the bar. Thank God for the bar.
It’s all I can think as I watch the under 21s pile into the main floor at Terminal 5. It’s 8:48 on a Wednesday (forty-eight minutes after the alleged start time, another fifty-seven to go before any music is played), and they outnumber the of age folks by at least four to one. We are all here to see Odd Future perform, and it’s only dawning on me now that this is their true audience, these kids who look up to them the way freshmen look up to seniors. I feel silly for coming, suddenly much older than my twenty-three years, but I sip my beer, lean back on the bar, try to look like I belong. We wait some more.
The crowd gets restless. Chants of “WOLF GANG” and “START THE SHOW” rise and fall. People crowd surf. Lighters are lit and waved side to side as if to a slow ballad. It’s standard fare for musicians to be late, but these audience members have curfews. Some are even here with a parent. Finally, after an hour and forty-five minutes (two and a half beers in adult terms), someone appears on stage. It is Syd tha Kid, Odd Future’s DJ and the only female member of the collective. She begins to spin and dance to her own creations. She is here to warm up the crowd, to offer an olive branch of sorts for making everybody wait. Before long everyone on the main floor is moving in sync, obeying the demands of the beats. All is forgiven, and here come the others.
High energy does not begin to describe what is happening on stage. At any given moment somebody is stage diving or doing his best to start a mosh pit. One member – not sure who – dares to climb up to the railing of the second floor balcony and fall into the high schoolers below. Manic seems a fitting word for what I am seeing. And yet, nobody is missing a cue or making any visible mistakes. Despite their antics, Tyler, Hodgy, Mike G, Left Brain, Frank Ocean, etc., all seem to know exactly what they’re doing. They can create chaos without letting it take over the performance, an admirable ability, deliberate or not.
Predictable as it is to say, Tyler, the Creator is the focal point of the show. He is the only one who addresses the crowd with words other than “Throw your hands up,” and he does so several times throughout the night. Between some songs, he comes to the front of the stage, looks around at the crowd, and expresses his thoughts about being here. The energy level drops when this happens, but nobody seems to mind. Tyler has become the face of the group, and when he speaks it’s not hard to understand why. He doesn’t speak like a twenty-year old who is suddenly famous. He knows this is amazing, that a group of kids from Los Angeles can sell out shows all over the country and be the thing everyone is talking about. He knows that it takes most musicians years to cultivate a loyal following, if they get one at all, yet his stands right in front of him, hanging on his every word. He knows that it could all go away as quickly. He sits down during one of these pauses, says, “I’m sick of this next one, but I know y’all wanna hear it,” and “Yonkers,” the song that brought him here, begins.
The show ends at 11:45, just early enough for a full night’s sleep before school. They close, fittingly, with “Radical,” the infamous chorus of “Kill people, burn shit, fuck school” being shouted by everyone familiar with the song. Outside, in the rain, I watch the crowd dissipate on 11th avenue, and am once again stunned by the demographic. I make a game of trying to find five people as tall as me (I am not that tall). I catch eyes with an older gentleman who is herding a group of four or five ten-year olds away from the fray as they rehash the events of the evening. He can’t believe what he’s just seen, what he is still seeing. The odd future.
*Raf Richardson-Carillo is a correspondent for Officially A Yuppie. In the past his works include Underrated Classics of Deltron 3030 and The Hives.