6/16 Ghostemane Summer 2019 North America Tour: Ghostemane’s Got Guts
Horus the Astroneer:
The sidewalk vibrated beneath my tired feet, amplifying my impatience to enter the Brighton Music Hall. It had been a long work day and I was ready for the pit. Horus the Astroneer was blasting “Doomslayer” ft. Ghostemane when I spilled through the doors and into the venue that was teeming with alternative people. I discovered first-hand that panned bass is one thing in your headphones but a completely different experience in a 3D space. Disoriented and stoked on a plastic cup of vodka (today’s first hydration) I weaseled my way to the front of the crowd. I only saw three songs in Horus’ set but they were impressionable. Horus presided from his DJ stand- a neon green priest of pandemonium. He wore a mask and despite his unassuming and quiet presence, the crowd leapt and hollered for him and even moped upon his departure.
Then strode onto the stage, Dana Dentata, my queen. She ruled the room in a thong, fishnets and a cropped hoodie. Drunk and in love, I abandoned my concert companion to get a closer look. Dana’s energy was voltaic and her guitarist leeleezee matched Dana in bite and intensity. For years I’ve wondered what was missing at my favorite metal shows and it dawned on me that the femenine energy present was what I had unknowingly craved. Dentata tore through her hits “TND”, “Up&Down” and “Magic Pu$$y” and sang many unreleased tracks, “D In The D” “IUD” and “Lil Blood” to name a few. Dentata’s style is best described as a combo of experimental electronic and industrial sampling paired with sly rapped lyrics that endlessly uppercut the patriarchy underlaid by trap beats. Some may consider her work crude or pedestrian but underneath the shock value of her pussy-power anthems, Dentata illustrates the struggles of women on a universal level and demands the respect and rights women should have in 20-fucking-19.
Grunge and metal influences embellish the singer/rapper’s setlist. Dentata stripped down to a corset and flicked a whip at the crowd with a gusto that put Indiana Jones to shame. Her conversational dialogue with the crowd reeled in even the audience’s most skeptic members. She perched on the edge of the stage and begged “all my bitches come to daddy!” try as I might I couldn’t come to daddy, the crowd was too packed and mobile. Female fans sang back for the most part while the room’s metal bros were divided between sheepish awe and energetic support. leeleezee shredded through the entire set and headbanged her gorgeous dark mane to the beat. After the show I was surprised by the lack of strings and tame vocals on Dentata’s spotify; if she unleashes one hundredth of her stage persona ferocity into her unreleased tracks the music maven certainly won’t need to worry about album sales. I would also like to commend Dentata for fearlessly speaking on her sexual assault at the Quebec City show the evening before. Dentata leads the (grievously small) charge of women on the new emorap and metalrap scenes and does so with grit and style. She’s a grownass woman makin’ grown men cry, goddamnit!
Ho99o9 (pronounced “Horror”) crept onto a smoky stage amidst cinematic lighting and their very own nightmarish Interlude “When Death Calls”. The OGM disguised his face entirely in a bonnet nearly half his height and Eaddy wore only a pair of white jeans. The duo rocked out to “Forest Fires” from opposite sides of the stage– immediately I realized Ho99o9 is no traditional duo, rather two lead singers sharing a stage, joining forces to create a truly colorful and textured musical experience. Up next was “Leader of Pain”, a head-bobbing, mosh-worthy horror-punk jam dripping with Misfits influence. The entire crowd lurched and I began jumping instinctually, lest I be swallowed by the sweaty, long-haired mass surrounding me. “Street Power” followed the same tone, but absolute mayhem broke out when the first notes of “Mega City Nine (unknown virus 4.)” echoed through the hall. The frenzy of distorted synth was as ill as the song’s title suggested. Bone-wiggling bass was the vertebrae to The OGM’s scrumptious baritone flow on “Bone Collector” while more aggressive metal guitar introduced Eaddy’s frantic screams on “New Jersey Devil.” Both vocalists oozed charisma, stage presence and confidence. “City Rejects” served up a modern twist on surf rock.
The set perfectly balanced thrashing rages of melody and sensual beats, blending the group’s metal and hip-hop influences seamlessly. Observing the faces around, it dawned on me that I had never been to a show with a demographic this unique. Until recently, rap and rock resided in separate spheres (save Linkin Park and other bands in the nu-metal movement) but I marvelled as the most intense and devoted fans of both genres joined forces to try and knock me the fuck out. A few shaggy dudes shoved their elbows into my back and screamed that I didn’t belong in a mosh-pit if I didn’t want to get shoved. Luckily, Eaddy scaled the stage and swung from the rafters, pulling himself up to nest above the crowd. He dangled the microphone over the tumult like a yo-yo. I’ll never forget the exuberant smile that took over his face as he sat on top of the world. It inspired me– maybe dreams can come true? Ho99o9’s set concluded with the debut of a new song that is well worth the wait, don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for you.
Ghostemane’s touring DJ Parvo took the stage for 20 minutes to hype up the crowd for the main act. Fitted in a custom, blackmage mask he took the front of the stage, dancing and yelling to a few of his own mixes. Sensing the crowd’s impatience, he played clips from Killstation’s “Extinction” and Lil Peep’s “Beamer Boy.” This proved to be a smart choice, the entire audience sang along and erupted in a ruckus of hollering for the late lil Lil Peep. Parv0 requested that cell phones be put away for Ghostemane’s opening number.
Before you read further, it is important to note that Ghostemane is a 28 year old rapper, who has released seven albums and innumerable EP’s unsigned and completely on his own in an upheaval of the traditional structure of the music industry.
The Blackmage entered in a hail of strobe lights, thundering bass and the ricocheting clash of chains. His touring guitarist, bronzino, and dancer, Rake- aptly named after the Hexada track were both masked. I was blinded by a barrage of hair and arms surging towards the stage. No matter, chaos is the secret ingredient at a Ghostemane show and this ain’t my first rodeo. Ghostemane’s clean, unclean and rapped vocals were near identical to the recording with added embellishments that are definitive of his live performances. As a self-proclaimed metalhead I felt right at home during “FLESH,” the first and most hard-rock single from Ghostemane’s most recent album, N.O.I.S.E (No One Is Safe from Evil). “FLESH” featured killer drums from Ghostemane’s touring percussionist, Kale Yourself (Twitching Tongues, Mizert, Downpresser, God’s Hate, Fuming Mouth).
The moshing behind me intensified and miraculously the two gigantic men standing between the barricade and me left their post to go rage. I slipped into the gap and gripped onto the metal divider for dear life. I had a front seat to “Hades,” a long-time favorite of mine loaded with creep-factor galore. One of my favorite things about Ghostemane concerts is that Ghostie doesn’t neglect his old work. It’s fascinating to watch an artist reinvent their roots after they’ve grown and matured into a new sound and I couldn’t help but beam with pride for the new confidence, style and skill in Ghostemane’s performance. “Rake” played next, separating the diehards from the newbies.
Finally, Ghostemane broke out “Bonesaw,” wading into the welcoming sea of tattooed hands below him-stumbling for a moment before finding purchase. Voices from every corner of the room shouted the anthem and I could only hear Ghostemane’s voice because of our proximity. The balance of silence and blaring noise was unlike anything I had ever experienced. Very few contemporary songs make effective use of negative space in the way “Bonesaw” does. The heartbeat bass gripped my chest and I watched the song that had only ever existed in my headphones animated before me- my own voice painting a small part of it.
Naturally, “Trenchcoat” and “The Singularity” were next. I repressed the fear of inevitable hearing loss by telling myself that if Ghostemane can handle this night after night then I can too. He’s in his element. N.O.I.S.E features new textures and grains that Ghoste had never experimented with prior in both voice and engineered audio. The industrial synth, hard and heavy beats, infinite bass, vocal fry, brutal nasal tones and throaty clean vocals are his playground. As a fellow vocalist, I took pleasure in observing as he sculpted each and every word. I was delighted to hear “HACK/SLASH” and more grateful yet to hear the announcement that Getter and Ghostemane’s Dahlia II would be arriving soon. Ghostemane also explained that his single, “D(R)EAD” featuring Travis Baker was supposed to appear on N.O.I.S.E. but at the time, he didn’t think it was hard enough. Tonight, however, it had the hard seal of approval. “D(R)EAD” is an interesting precursor to N.O.I.S.E that bridges the steady rhythms, distortion and xylophones of HEXADA with the metal breakdowns and EXTRA boosted bass of N.O.I.S.E with it’s very own petrifying twist. The crowd rallied around the chorus, “I got a noose,” and went berzerk for the critical lyrics of the verse.
The best surprise yet, Ghostemane debuted “I duckinf hatw you,” a track from the “Human Error” EP collab with Parv0 that would drop the next day. PSA: Ghostemane concerts also serve as personalized news bulletins, so you really don’t want to miss them. “I duckinf hatw you” abandons traditional song-structure by all measure- a quilt of “Hades”-esque synth, whispers, screams, bass and pulsing rhythms, weaving his new and old influences handsomely. It also serves as a diary for his current mental state- haunted by past traumas and clawing for happiness despite success, money and love but never finding it. The EP has been a challenge for me as a fan, because it is so transparent about Ghostemane’s depression, no longer disguised by anger and deflection. It’s too real, too raw, too close to my own emotions and thoughts. Fans look to their favorite artists to find hope when they are despondent- but what happens when your favorite artist admits to the relentlessness of their own pain? Is there no repose from melancholy?
Anyway, there’s still another half of the set to discuss. The steamy “Ballgag” followed a shout out to the leather and bondage fans in the house. Every creak of Ghostemane’s voice had the audience’s rapt attention- the room was brimming with shawtys willing to spend an evening being shoved, clawed and trampled, so you can imagine their reaction to hearing Ghostie sing “shawty say she a freak” at near-full volume for the first time. “Inside” and “Gatteka” made an appearance, before the lights went down for an exclusive performance of “Acrylic,” an off-key ballad from the May EP, Opium. The Blackmage was fully exposed, illuminated by smartphone flashlights. bronzino lost his mask and traded out his electric guitar for an acoustic. The two stood side by side in the most vulnerable performance of the evening. The commotion ceased (with the exception of a few “I love you Eric!”’s) and the room’s hungry eyes and ears devoured the performance with adoration. Ghostemane quavered with nerves at first, but his courage overcame for a truly beautiful and dynamic execution. Two years ago Ghostemane’s unfiltered singing voice would never have made an appearance on his set.
Parv0 then played a brief interlude. This was most likely to relieve the star of the show for a few moments and rally the audience. However, Parv0’s alternative trap mixes felt rather discombobulating after such a sincere and raw moment. Regardless, his stage presence was strong and vaguely menacing and a clip of his Ghostemane and Lil Zubin collab “Broken,” riled up the room.
Ghostemane stormed back onstage and demanded that we kneel for “D(R)OWN.” The audience sprang to their feet at the first verse’s onset. This fan-favorite has certainly not lost its edge and hasn’t suffered any neglect in lieu of Ghostemane’s new album and three EP’s. Ghostemane took a pause to cheers to all the ladies present, “this song’s about falling in love,” he said as the moaning intro of “Squeeze” took the audience by surprise. Continuing down the list of his HEXADA era hits, he played “1,000 Rounds,” eliciting an energetic response from fans. “You guys like Pouya?” he asked before covering Pouya’s “Stick Out.” This was the first and only decision on Ghostemane’s part that I questioned. I understand that the two are inseparable friends, but the concert-goers had paid to hear Ghostemane’s songs and not Pouya’s. Considering the slew of sexual assault allegations against Pouya in 2017 (which Pouya has denied) the songchoice left a bad taste in my mouth.
“Andromeda” and “Kali Yuga,” saw the entire crowd singing along and bathed in red and green flashes of light. Ho99o9 returned for an exclusive rendition of “TWIST OF FATE/COBRA”. Ghostemane commanded his fans to jump off the bar, crowdsurf, mosh, open circle pits, punch and kiss each other; “Make security earn their paychecks,” he muttered just before the drop. The three performers synergized for one of the best jams of the evening that could not be complete without bronzino’s shredding. Ghostemane handed the lead over to his counterparts and danced during their verses. It was refreshing to see that he trusted the OGM and Eaddy enough to relax and have fun. With the metal energy still flowing, leeleezee returned to the stage and swung a periwinkle guitar over her head, shattering it against the stage over and over again. The crowd seethed, living for the destruction. I did my best to enjoy the punk rock moment without dwelling on the fact that I can’t afford a guitar to play, let alone break. Ghostemane crushed “Carbomb” to most of the room’s reluctance, but my own personal delight. “Fear Network” is the band-tee-toting rappers only work I would classify as pure metal and judging by his adrenaline rush I could tell Ghostemane was living the rockstar dream. Despite the apprehension from his hip-hop fanbase, Ghostemane has been releasing work outside of his traditional genre (Fear Network and Opium, namely) and Band Over Fist is here for his creative liberty and experimental work. Fans can’t complain with the brand new release of Human Error-yet another collection of heavy, dirty rap. Ghostemane joked about fans in attendance solely to hear Mercury: Retrograde, “I bet you all want to stop beating each other up and just hear your favorite song,” he grinned. He furthered their suspense with “Black Blood” and “Pink Mist” upon realizing that the show was running early. Abruptly, Ghostemane bid the crowd a good evening and exited.
The evening had been perfect but the audience was hungry for more. Chants of “One More Song,” and “Ghostemane” did not quell until the Blackmage returned. He offered two more songs “only if you guys promise to make fun of the people who left already.” Finally, the crowd got their wish and the familiar spinning synth and high-hats announced “Mercury: Retrograde.” Ghostemane closed out the show with Euronymous, my personal favorite church-burning hymn.
The growth and mastery between the Summer 2019 North American tour and Ghostemane’s first show in Boston where he debuted HEXADA is indicative of even more groundbreaking things to come for the unsigned Aries. We can’t wait to see what’s next!