Pour one out for the security team at Kentish Town Forum. Watching them try to keep the fans in the balcony seated during 100 Gecs’ debut UK headline show was like watching someone battle a hydra: every time one audience member was subdued, two more sprang up in their place. By the time the band – St Louis, Missouri producers and vocalists Laura Les and Dylan Brady – ended their set, with a boisterous rendition of 800db Cloud, security had given up: in their live shows, as in their recorded music, 100 Gecs defy all logic and, especially, all rules.
100 Gecs broke out in 2019 with 1000 Gecs, an album of crushingly loud pop that combined emo and EDM with dubstep, chiptune, rap-rock and ska. The almost comical intensity of their music, as well as Les and Brady’s avant garde, extremely online sensibility, turned the album into a viral success; by the end of 2019, the pair were the poster children of hyperpop, a microgenre of eccentric, internetty electronic music that was basically willed into existence after the creation of a Spotify playlist bearing its name.
Three years after 1000 Gecs’ release, it’s easy to be sceptical of the hype around hyperpop, especially for those who were following the scene and its participants before the term existed. At this point, Gecs have reached full saturation point in certain corners of the culture; the band’s brand of affected, self-conscious bizarreness, replicated frequently and easily by memelords and TikTokers everywhere, almost feels dull.
Their live show, however, emphasises all the things about 100 Gecs that often get lost in the discourse that surrounds them: the perfectionist approach to form-breaking that made 1000 Gecs so listenable, the rich, brutally catchy hooks that jump out from the waves of harsh noise. Moreover, the show takes on an extremely nostalgic feel – a kind of weirdo love letter to emo and ska performed with far more reverence than one might expect from listening to the band’s recorded output.
Although Les and Brady rarely play any instruments – and when they do, it’s most often part of an extended bit, as when a harsh percussive section gives way to Les playing the riff from Sweet Child O’ Mine – songs such as Hand Crushed by a Mallet and Money Machine still feel dynamic. They are dramatically different from their recorded versions, while a suite of songs from the band’s forthcoming second album 10000 Gecs lean into ska and Weezer-y stadium rock. While the band’s hits – songs such as Stupid Horse and Mememe – get the strongest reaction from the ecstatic, heaving crowd, few songs sound or hit better than 757, a Cobra Starship-like 10000 Gecs number anchored by gigantic, sugary synth riffs. It’s a jolting reminder that, even if the culture they’ve wrought can be exhausting, Les and Brady themselves are as electrifyingly, disorientingly great as they’ve ever been.