Brockhampton brings a dynamic energy on their first headlining tour

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(Photo credit: Maria Mata | Vanyaland)

If you happened to spend last Tuesday night at The Middle East in Cambridge, Mass., you might still be soaked with the sweat of everyone around you—the vibrations of Brockhampton’s songs still stuck in your chest. The Los Angeles-based boyband isn’t what you’d expect for the stereotypical trope—their alternative hip-hop sound is cutting with lyrics that explore youth, Blackness and sexuality.

Brockhampton appears as one big family, which essentially, is what they are. Living under one roof in Los Angeles, their iconic couch symbol represents their belonging in a haven for outcasts. A couch adorned their stage for “Jennifer’s Tour,” their very first tour across the U.S.

The group consists of founder Kevin Abstract, who created the boyband during his teen years back in Texas, rapper/vocalists Matt Champion, Ameer Vann, Dom McLennon, William “Merlyn” Wood, Russell “JOBA” Boring and UK-based Bearface. The production team consists of Romil Hemnani, Kiko Merley and Jabari Manwa.

On the night of their sold-out Cambridge show, fans (mostly high school and college-age kids) formed a mass of bodies that were driven by an energy like no other. Performing songs from their latest albums released in the summer, “SATURATION” and “SATURATION II,” the boyband gave a show that was permeated by a room of people who knew every single word.

Rather than fangirling and screaming, the sounds of insults and obscenities were yelled back and forth between the members and the fans with rounds of middle fingers. The group conveys the most casual relationship with their fans, who were equipped with inside jokes and clever chants. As an outsider, you might come to understand that they have the sort of cult following similar to the likes of Odd Future, but with a more modern and unorthodox twist.

The chemistry between the members of the group shone through each song they performed—all without a break to take a breather. The bass in “HEAT,” the opener for SATURATION, blew away the audience as such an impressionable opener. The disruptive beat emitted a contagious energy that encouraged the entire crowd to mosh as one being.

Highlights from the show included the many hits from both of their summer albums, heavily praised by their fan base considering each single had a homemade music video to go along with it. The band manufactures every aspect of their brand in the vicinity of their own home—the music, the graphic concepts, the videos, etc.

When you’re close enough to the stage to touch the members, the experience feels all the more surreal. “FACE,” one of their softer tracks, lulled the crowd into something of a meditative state. Throughout the show, the energy shifted control between the members and the crowd, whose vivacity consumed the entire room.

Brockhampton member “Bearface” slowed down the liveliness into an ambience with tracks “WASTE” and “SUMMER.” As the only non-American member and surely the most mysterious, the smoothness of Bearface’s guitar solos and lush vocals undeniably warmed the already sweat-soaked audience.

Founder Kevin Abstract reiterated his struggle with being gay in songs like “JUNKY,” while Merlyn Wood and Ameer Vann created a narrative in lyrics about growing up Black in a predominantly white area. Each member contributes their own message of marching to the beat of their own drum, and together they unite kids from all over to embrace their identity.

What made the experience so unique was how easily Brockhampton deviates from everyone else in the rap scene. Not only are they talented in rapping and singing, but their messages speak volumes to young and impressionable crowds. The closing song and fan favorite, “STAR,” was performed at least four consecutive times in a row—eternalizing the moment as if they were creating an entirely new world, with their own specialized dialogue, which the fans weren’t sick of in the slightest.

Considering they’re still an emerging group, Brockhampton’s ability to influence their young audience so strongly makes them a major player in the new generation of music. The ambitious energy they carry will only take them farther, and at the rate they’re moving, who knows how many sold out shows are on the way.

Ariya Sonethavy can be contacted at [email protected]