It’s been one year exactly since Tyler, the Creator and his busload of Odd Future friends performed their first show, a sold-out free-for-all in Los Angeles. In that time, legend spread immediately, the hype machine got pushed onto the rollercoaster tracks, and Tyler sold over 100,000 copies of Goblin, his debut album. Adored by misfit teens, Odd Future’s particular brand of misogyny-slash-violence combined with back-of-the-classroom tomfoolery – simultaneously polarizing and pulverizing, as it is – has inspired more Tumblr thinkpieces than previously thought possible. And yet, they’ve met protests with cupcakes and have become MTV darlings and Adult Swim priorities.
Last night, they returned to New York for the fourth time, hitting the stage this go-round at Terminal 5. Their first shows here were crazed ballets of Sonic the Hedgehog stage dives and football lineman swim moves, hour-long indoor riots that left Tyler pulling from his asthma inhaler and the audience reeling. Now, it’s a completely different experience. In the cavernous West Side venue filled with kids holding their middle fingers up for the night, it felt a bit like Occupy Rec Hall. Girls dangled their legs over balconies, sitting patiently as the Frankenstein-like Left Brain seized.
To watch an Odd Future show is to watch seven different concerts at once. Everyone has a microphone and a thirst for attention – interruptions get side-tracked, inside jokes spur more inside jokes. A chant of “Tank top in the club, I’m in my tank top” went from a playful snap to legitimate club hit in a span of 30 seconds, three floors full of kids intuitively soul-clapping its beat as the boys onstage chanted. One of the microphones announced the arrival of special guest R. Kelly, who happened to be a skinny kid in an loose-fitting purple tee-shirt. He waved. Maybe Jasper Dolphin – definitely somebody, but it was hard to tell – said, “Some of ’em get it, some of ’em don’t.” Tyler pleaded with the lighting technicians and yelled at Jasper, for different things, within the same sentence. It’s a circus tailor-made for the ADHD generation.
Odd Future is at its best when they’re most menacing, but that happens less often than it should. Sure, there are moments of brilliant frenzy: under drumrolling strobe lights, the combination of MellowHype’s “Fuck Police” and Tyler’s “Bitch Suck Dick” whipped a mosh pit into a human Cuisinart. But overall, Tyler seems reluctant to be in the spotlight, which seems almost inconceivable. As of last night, he’s just one of many gargoyles, all of whom seem to have stolen his signature moves – even Hodgy now rolls his eyes back into his head. Tyler jumped from the second-floor balcony; so did Hodgy. He is a Mr. Miyagi, and his students think they have now grown to his level. (Still, he’s the only one who can command a stage, solo.) Instead of grabbing at the cameras, Tyler pushes the entirety of Odd Future forward. But what is smart for the brand is not so good for the show: stoners Domo Genesis and Mike G – bleary-eyed and slump-shouldered, respectively – break the rhythm, repeatedly pumping the brakes. Never has anyone gone to a punk rock show for the slow songs.
Shoving themselves out of the mosh pits and into the unrelenting storm outside, a parade of kids punched the air, Tyler’s words in their mouths: “Kill people, burn shit, fuck school!” A group of parents stood in a row as they passed, waiting to pick their kids up.
Transylvania (Tyler, the Creator)
Rolling Papers (Domo Genesis)
Forest Green (Mike G)
Tron Cat (Tyler)
TANGGOLF (Domo/Hodgy Beats)
Everything That’s Yours (Mike G)
Swag Me Out (Odd Future)
Suicide Watch (Left Brain/Tyler)
A Million and One Answers (Mike G)
More Clouds (Domo/Remy Banks)
Orange Juice (Odd Future)
I Got a Gun (MellowHype)
Come Through Looking Clean (Young N—a)
Stick Up (Mike G)
Turnt Down (Hodgy)
Basic Bitch (Domo/Hodgy)
Loaded (MellowHype/Mike G)
Tank Top in the Club (Odd Future, freestyle)
Cool (Odd Future)
Fuck Police (MellowHype/Tyler)
Bitch Suck Dick (Tyler/Odd Future)
Moracular World (Mike G)
Tank Top in the Club (Odd Future, reprise)
Radicals (Tyler/Odd Future)