When you hear the term “boyband,” the image of several highly polished, music-industry-manufactured, cute boys in their teens to early 20s usually comes to mind. You can almost imagine their crisp, tight choreography, smell the wafts of cologne and hair product, and hear the constant correction by their fanbase that they’re ‘not just a boyband but actually talented at playing their instruments.’
However, BROCKHAMPTON seeks to completely subvert these ideals as a boyband.
For the uninitiated, BROCKHAMPTON is a group of 15 rappers, vocalists, producers, photographers, designers, directors, and other creatives working together to create some of the most interesting music of 2017.
Founded by Texas-based rapper Kevin Abstract in 2015, the boyband formed and met mostly online through a Kanye West fan forum called KanyeToThe. Eventually, the collective moved into a shared house in the greater Houston area, where they began work on their 2016 mixtape, “All American Trash.” After that tape’s release, they relocated to Los Angeles, where they continued work on a few members’ solo projects.
They released their debut album “SATURATION” in June of this year, quickly followed up by its sequel “SATURATION II” in August. They said they will be releasing a third album entitled “SATURATION III” before the end of the year.
Each of their releases were written, produced, and recorded in only a matter of weeks from inside their shared home in Los Angeles, giving the group a work ethic closer to Motown in its heyday than traditional boybands. To add to this do-it-yourself ethic, all of their music videos and promotional materials are produced and directed in-house, which gives them an incredible sense of character that not many artists can achieve through music videos.
To add to the true boyband experience, if you wanted to get a chance to see BROCKHAMPTON on their first-ever headlining tour, it required driving upwards of four hours to attend an early, sold-out show on a school night in Detroit, Michigan.
Since I had to drive all the way from Columbus to attend, I unfortunately showed up close to 20 minutes late and missed BROCKHAMPTON open up the show with their two album openers “HEAT” and “GUMMY,” alongside standout banger “QUEER” and tender emotional song “FACE.”
Onstage, their live show featured rappers Kevin Abstract, Ameer Vann, Merlyn Wood, Dom McLenon, Matt Champion, vocalist/producer Russell “Joba” Boring, and DJ/Producer Romil Hemani. Backstage and behind the scenes, all members of the boyband played a role in the production, whether it be filming their set, running lights, staffing the merch table, and beyond.
My friend and I sprinted from our car as soon as we could hear them play their currently most played single, “GOLD,” from outside the venue. Once we got in, we quickly melded with the rest of the cramped crowd, most of which were screaming out the lyrics to every song.
During the “Saturation II” track “CHICK,” the sound system malfunctioned at the venue, causing the band to stop mid-song while the sound engineer quickly fixed the problem.
After it was back up and running, the band came back with an energy that made it seem like nothing happened. Playing through other fan favorites like “SWAMP,” “JUNKY,” and “TOKYO,” they closed their first set by performing the emotional group track “SUNNY” before exiting the stage.
On this tour BROCKHAMPTON had not just one, but two encore sets at the end. The first was dedicated to performing the two songs off of the “SATURATION” projects that feature vocalist and guitarist bearface. These two ballads, complete with live guitar solos, completely changed the entire energy and mood of the night, providing a brief break before the true encore: the group’s performance of “STAR.”
“STAR” is one of the songs where BROCKHAMPTON shines the most. The song is basically three rap verses with no hook, based off of name dropping various celebrities for three minutes.
Seeing this song performed live was such a chaotically powerful experience, as the crowd erupted into a huge mosh pit. Every member of the crowd was screaming the lyrics to this song at the top of their lungs. In the end, they ended up playing this song a total of three times in a row, capping off a truly wild, entertaining whirlwind of a concert that night.
To complete the boyband experience, BROCKHAMPTON took fan service to a level I’ve never seen before at a concert this size. Each member has a very unique and highly active online presence, which gives fans a feeling like they already deeply know and care about the band before ever getting a chance to meet them.
After the show, they had a thoroughly organized and free meet and greet available to all fans. While occasional members stopped for individual pictures with fans, they made sure every fan had the chance to say hi and get a picture with the full group.
After the band left the stage, long lines began to form both at their merchandise table and the now velvet-roped off show space. I decided to pick the poison of getting merch first, followed by trying to hop in at the end of the meet and greet line.
BROCKHAMPTON is on a trajectory for superstardom. The energy and charisma that flows through each member both on their albums and in their live performances completely enthralls their listeners, turning the average casual listener into superfans in a matter of minutes.
Being able to see them on their very first headlining tour felt like witnessing a piece of history before my eyes. The only thing I wish could’ve been different about this show would be that I wish it could’ve lasted longer, as the entire experience felt like a whirlwind dream. It’ll be incredibly exciting to see where the next great American boyband ends up.