Written by Sadie Almgren
“I went to wilderness therapy in Siberia”, I overhear someone say as I stand in what feels like a can of human sardines. Someone else holds their phone high above their head, playing the pilot episode of Breaking Bad, people eagerly crowd around to watch Walter White ask Jesse Pinkman to cook meth. I was standing in Denver’s Mission Ballroom on a Thursday evening, waiting for 100 gecs to come onstage.
Following their genre-defining 2019 album, 1000 gecs, 100 gecs recently released 10,000 gecs and subsequently embarked on the 10,000 Gecs Tour 2. Yeah, I know, that’s a lot of gecs to keep track of. 10,000 gecs offers a delicious combination of classic gecs-style autotuned vocals, ridiculously creative glitchy aesthetics, and stupid silliness, but with a slightly different flavor from their critically-acclaimed debut. 100 gecs is composed of Laura Les and Dylan Brady, two friends from St. Louis, originally meeting in high school. Known for their revolutionary approach to hyperpop, 100 gecs is the kind of band you either love or can’t stand. And if I learned anything from this concert, a lot of folks really, really love 100 gecs.
At this point, you might be asking yourself, what does a 100 gecs crowd look like? Well my friend, I was wondering the same thing before the show, and here are some of the highlights: a mutilated babydoll tossed around like a beach ball, a furry (in a full fursuit), facial piercings I didn’t even know were possible, some guy who bears striking resemblance to my current geology professor, someone wearing a collar and someone else holding the attached leash for the entirety of the show, the spikiest mohawks on this side of the Mississippi, and, most importantly, our fearless student body president, Doré Young.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The evening began when experimental electronic duo Machine Girl took the stage. Matt Stephenson (bass and vocals) and Sean Kelly (drums) played a thirty minute set of pure and constant sonic chaos, never taking a second to catch their breath. As Sean tortured his drum kit, Matt aimlessly wandered around the stage, sometimes playing bass, sometimes gutturally screaming into the microphone not acknowledging anyone or anything, as if he existed alone deep in outer space. At one point, he climbed up onto an amp, perched like a gargoyle for half of a song, and then proceeded to jump off like he was in High School Musical. In lieu of a traditional mosh pit, the crowd manically bounced around and banged their heads to themselves, as if they were all listening to different songs with different tempos and time signatures. If Machine Girl’s music was not enough to induce sensory overload, the lights changed color and flickered on and off at a velocity the music itself tried (but failed) to keep up with. Machine Girl’s set was down right severe (in an enjoyable way).
After pushing my way into the mosh pit proper, I stood amongst my fellow gecs-enjoyers in jittery anticipation. I had no idea what I was in for, except that it would be preposterously silly and crazy. The venue went dark, then bright strobe lights sliced through the metal backdrop onstage and carved out the two silhouettes of 100 gecs themselves. Immediately, the crescendo that opens 10,000 gecs played as Laura and Dylan emerged wearing their signature purple and yellow wizard robes, faces obscured by their long, bleach blonde hair. The crushing metal guitar riffs of “Dumbest Girl Alive” heavily reverberated through my cranium as I slammed into the folks around me, giggling and screaming “I’M SMARTER THAN I LOOK, I’M THE DUMBEST GIRL ALIVE”. 100 gecs played loud–like really loud–and yet their stage presence was paradoxically and charismatically unassuming. Laura and Dylan simply just vibed to their own music, not doing much more than that, sometimes getting really into it, sometimes not.
Adhering to the tracklist of 10,000 gecs, they launched directly into “757”, a glittery, fast-paced song where Laura and Dylan sing, “I smell the trees when I’m in Colorado/Interior gas station McDonald’s”. At this, the whole crowd chanted these lyrics as if it was our own pledge of allegiance to 100 gecs and legal marijuana in Colorado. More silliness abounded as they played perhaps the goofiest gecs song of them all, “Frog on the Floor”, which tells the story of a frog on the floor who does a keg stand at a party, but nobody really knows where said frog came from. Everyone in the mosh was a human ping pong ball, all bouncing around and into and away from each other.
Most 100 gecs songs are shorter than three minutes, and I felt grateful for that, as each song left the crowd gasping for air, slimy with each other’s sweat. In between songs, Laura often made brief comments acknowledging the warzone that was the pit saying, “pretty cool, party people, pretty cool”, her voice drenched in autotune. Throughout the setlist, 100 gecs interspersed a few groovier and more understated songs such as “what’s that smell” and “The Most Wanted Person in the United States”, allowing there to be a brief calm before the next storm. The first of these breaths of fresh air was the beginning of “I Got My Tooth Removed”, following their hit single, “Hollywood Baby”. Lights went dark and a colossal disco ball rotated and reflected little squares of light throughout the dungeon that was the Mission Ballroom. Friends and lovers jokingly slow danced to the ballad chronicling overwhelming tooth pain as if they were awkward sixth graders at their first middle school dance. However, this was short lived as the song soon diverged into an explosion of gecs-flavored ska.
I don’t know much about physics, but the amount of sheer force of the crowd surging towards the stage during the face melting ending of “Billy Knows Jamie” was definitely enough to trigger at least a magnitude 7 earthquake. The pulverizing distortion glitches in a way that it feels as if the sound waves are pushing through a high viscosity fluid, having to work really hard to do so. As if, maybe, sounds this heavy shouldn’t exist. But 100 gecs proves that they do, and they should. The laws of physics continued to be defied in the mosh as gecs played “One Million Dollars” and “xXXi_wud_nvrstøp_ÜXXx”, two songs that sound like what would happen if you fed hazardous amounts of psychedelic drugs to the most advanced robot in the world.
Then, it was time for a bit of a vibe change. As the guitar tech sauntered on stage to deliver acoustic guitars to Laura and Dylan, the crowd immediately began chanting, “Wonderwall! Wonderwall! Wonderwall!” Laura jokingly pretended to oblige, supposedly agreeing to play Oasis’ seminal hit song that, at this point, has been memed into oblivion. Instead, gecs delivered a shockingly sweet acoustic version of their traditionally deranged tune, “gecgecgec”. Dylan played rhythm guitar as Laura pleasantly picked the melody, where (despite the autotune) I momentarily forgot that I was at an 100 gecs show. I soon remembered though, as Dylan and Laura played the cult classic, “money machine”, where I think every single person in the room perfectly recited the spoken word opening monologue,
“Hey you lil’ piss baby, you think you’re so f*****g cool?
You think you’re so f*****g tough?
You talk a lotta big game for someone with such a small truck
Aw, look at those arms
Your arms look so f*****g cute
They look like lil’ cigarettes
I bet I could smoke you
I could roast you
And then you’d love it and you’d text me ‘I love you’ and then I’d f*****g
After the beat dropped, it was the beginning of the end. If aerial footage was taken of the crowd during the last three songs of the set (“money machine”, “mememe”, and “800db cloud”), you would notice an oscillation between a gigantic empty circle being forcefully opened up by overeager citizens of the pit, and then pure angst-ridden violence. You would see order devolve into chaos which then devolves back into order, ad infinitum. I saw my friends almost get eaten by the goopy monster that was the crowd, but ultimately get spit back out. I danced. I laughed. I cried. I got ridiculously flat tired. The ending of gecs’ set was nothing if not wickedly explosive, each moment upstaging the next. But everyone was still hungry for more, beckoning Laura and Dylan to give us just a wee little bit more of that sweet, sweet gec-y goodness. 100 gecs indulged us, giving us a double encore of “bloodstains” (from their 2017 self-titled EP) and “gec 2 Ü”, as if we all weren’t sweaty enough already.
As I moseyed out of the venue, dreaming of the Nalgene full of water waiting for me in my friend’s minivan, I thought about this: when it comes to 100 gecs, there is always a conversation about irony. Laura and Dylan have insisted that nothing they do is ironic. However, the metric tons of autotune, unhinged approach to electronic music, the way songs off of 10,000 gecs kind of sound like parodies of early 2000s pop punk and Limp Bizkit, and, not to mention, their lyrics (such as “got Anthony Kiedis sucking on my penis”) often suggest otherwise. To be completely honest, I really don’t know whether 100 gecs and irony can ever be mutually exclusive, no matter how hard you might try to separate any inherent irony from a song of theirs, or find a deeper emotional meaning in what they have to say. Or, if 100 gecs exists just for the sake of absurdity. But, I do know that I unironically had the time of my life listening to the wacky sounds that Dylan and Laura cooked up for a room of stinky weirdos. And I unironically think that’s a beautiful thing.