Being banned from Auckland's Big Day Out for what some consider offensive lyrical content was the best thing that could have happened to fans of Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, who played The Powerstation last Thursday night in lieu of their planned performance at Friday's BDO. What would have likely been a BDO afternoon oddity became a night of teenage mayhem that may not have survived a festival's unique ability to smooth the edges off what would otherwise be an inciting performance.
Odd Future is a young rap collective from Los Angeles, whose controversial lyrics and online ubiquity has won them scores of fans (and critics) wherever you can find an ADSL cable. More of a sub-cultural force than a music act, Odd Future's currency is the energy and rebellion of youth. Youngness pervades both the form and content of their work. Their songs are about hating school, hating parents, and smoking weed (oh, and sexual violence). Their online marketing - Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube - is so seemlessly connected to their musical output that it could only be the product of kids who have never known a world without modems.
And so it makes sense that the show itself was so alive with teenage aggression. The kids in attendance - mostly 16-20 year-olds - were so well versed in the aesthetics of Odd Future (they'd all seen this show before - on their parents' laptops and on their iPhones during Engineering 101) that there was a conspicuous lack of the usual polite physical appreciation of music. The audience didn't just bounce up and down with the beat - they threw themselves against one another and against the pounding, distorted, Wu-Tang Clan-inspired productions.
The crowd's energy was more than matched by the raw skateboard athleticism of the group. Watching Odd Future jump and twist their way around (and off) the stage, it was impossible to know whether this is a group that was still near the start of a great ascent, or at the pinnacle of their short prominence.
As Odd Future dived into the their last song of the night - Tyler's Radicals - the support beams holding the all-ages mezzanine above our heads ominously pulsed, bending with the weight of youth. As hundreds of adolescents screamed along to the chorus - "Kill people, burn shit, fuck school!" - it was obvious that it didn't matter at all whether this was the start of a legacy or the bright-burn of a brief explosion.
Either way, if there's more ahead - if the music output catches up with the cultural output - I'm all in. But if what we have now is all there is and all there will be, that's fine with me too. At least I got to see them on Thursday when they burnt bright.
Who: Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All
Where: The Powerstation, Auckland
When: Thursday 19 January 2012