As much as I’d like to say that I knew Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (a.k.a OFWGKTA or simply Odd Future) before the frenzy began, I must admit that I am a recent bandwagon jumper.
I recall their appearance on the lineup for 2010’s “Hard Summer” festival in Los Angeles, but I missed out on the festival and hadn’t paid much attention to them other than that. What struck a chord with me about the rap collective was leader Tyler the Creator’s recent Best New Artist win at the MTV Video Music Awards, an award picked by the fans. In a category dominated by radio and television darlings, Tyler proved that the elimination of the music middleman can reach fans in a powerful way, and that is a significant sign of the times.
Those fans showed up in full force for the House of Blues show. Scores of teenagers were clad in ironic cat t-shirts emblazoned with “Golfwang” (a take on the group’s “Wolfgang” moniker) and shorts with tube socks pulled up, emulating the style of Odd Future’s members. The excitement of the youthful crowd was uncontainable. Even while waiting for the show to begin, the audience moshed and crowd-surfed, feverishly chanting “Golfwang” the whole time.
Oozing with “swag” (a ubiquitous term of the night) Odd Future’s female powerhouse music producer Syd tha Kid warmed the crowd up with beats that ranged from old-school Beastie Boys to swooping dubstep rhythms. Her cool demeanor and ability to hold her own with the boys made her a perfect opener, although the term “opener” is loosely used, since the rest of the group crashed her set (quite literally) by riding a homemade skateboard onto the stage, thus starting the main event.
The performance showcased Odd Future’s collaborative style of recording. Even music released under Tyler the Creator’s name is a group effort, with members offering up beats and raps, as they did on “Sandwitches,” from Tyler’s Goblin album. A number of sub-groups exist within Odd Future, and at the show, each one got some face time. MellowHype, featuring Hodgy Beats and Left Brain, took the stage to perform cuts from their two recordings. (Other sub-groups include EarlWolf featuring Tyler and the absent Earl Sweatshirt, and The Internet featuring Syd and fellow producer Matt Martian.)
The crowd’s energy amped up considerably when Tyler took to a wooden stool under red lights to perform the award-winning “Yonkers.” During this song, the spiraling, anxiety-attack beat completely came to life, and Tyler’s raspy-yet-smooth drawl was perfect when proclaiming his hatred of Bruno Mars and love for the Cartoon Network show Adventure Time.
The vibe of the show had an unexpected sense of community and felt more like a party than a concert, with all distinctions between rock stars and fans left by the wayside. Before and after the show, the Odd Future crew interacted with fans by heckling them, stage diving, and accepting giant pink-unicorn stuffed animals. Even before the show officially began, Tyler and other Odd Future members Hodgy Beats, Mike G, Domo Genesis, Left Brain, Jasper, and Taco took to the stage to throw food and t-shirts out to (or quite possibly at) the enthusiastic crowd. During the show, the group distributed water bottles to “their children” to keep them hydrated. And throughout it all, the group’s undeniable chemistry and charisma proved entertaining in its own right.
Odd Future have come under fire for their controversial lyrics, much in the way other huge rap/hip-hop players have been criticized in the past. Their performance at House of Blues showed that these guys aren’t as scary as they’re made out to be, and that their talent stands for itself. The evening wasn’t about controversy, but about being in the moment.
After their wildly successful year, the development of their own record label, and the creation of a prankster-style television show for Adult Swim, it was evident on the opening night of their nationwide tour that this is indeed Odd Future’s moment. By the end of the show I wanted to chant “Golfwang” in the streets of downtown San Diego and stir up some good ol’ fashioned ruckus.