It was about 120 degrees in The Double Door Wednesday, July 14th. The room was packed from wall to wall and an eclectic mix of 80′s standards and modern hip hop tracks played along with the stage lights. Beams of light cut through the clouds of what seemed to be artificial smoke, but was actually perspiration. A human fog filled the room and everyone was dripping with no escape from the suffocating heat. Moisture collected on the ceiling. The floor began to get slick, and then it started. Die Antwoord took the stage and the bass hit my chest like a sledge hammer as the hooded emcees jumped on stage backed by a ghoul-masked DJ. As the throbbing beats shook the building, the crowd moved as one and the floorboards flexed like a trampoline. It was at this moment that I stopped toiling in the miserable heat and started to embrace it.
If you haven’t seen South African Zef Rave-Rap group Die Antwoord‘s youtube videos yet, you’ve been living under an internet rock. In late 2009 the group published videos for their tracks “Wat Pomp” and “Zef Side / Beat Boy”, the former a straight-forward music video inspired by the work of South African photographer Roger Ballen, the latter a bit of an ‘introduction’ to the members of the group Ninja, Yo-Landi Vi$$er, and DJ Hi-Tek. It wasn’t until 6 Months ago that the group broke out with their video for “Enter The Ninja”, and found viral success on youtube. The video features SA Artist and progeria victim Leon Botha, and artwork by Ninja inspired by Roger Ballen. The track is a highlight from their first album $o$, which was given away by the band for free on their interwebsite, helping drive up their popularity even more. Based on references to various artists, film makers, and the total polish (or intentional lack thereof) of the group, it is clear that Die Antwoord is a very image-conscious band; a non-organic, calculated creation by the members of the group that is a parody of the genre and a very serious art project at the same time.
The set opened with “Enter The Ninja” and was followed by a selection of the best high-energy tracks from $o$. Halfway through, the group caught their breath with the slower, melodic “I Don’t Need You” prompting Ninja to ask the entire crowd to aid in singing the song’s chorus. Despite the temperature in the room, the emcees maintained their energy level throughout the entire night, as well as DJ Hi-Tek replacement “Vuilegeboost”, who did a fantastic job of reminding the crowd to continue moving through sweet dance moves of his own. According to Die Antwoord, Vuilgeboost is Hi-Tek’s cousin, who travels with them because DJ Hi-Tek is afraid of flying. I’m not sure I buy that story, but ‘Boost did a great job of controlling the show. It was evident as the show progressed that Ninja and Yo-Landi are masters at what they do and they kept the crowd involvement at 100% for the duration of their set. Several times throughout the show and during verses, Ninja would dive into the crowd who would carefully pass him back to the stage. Before you knew it, the show was over and the group left the stage briefly to a roaring crowd with arms flailing in the air.
With an empty stage, the voice of Ninja came over the speakers, “Is this still on? I’m sitting here, on the steps…I think I’m dying. I don’t want to get up.” he said, referring to his understandable state of exhaustion. By this time the heat was starting to really affect everyone, but sure enough, Die Antwoord came back on stage to rock the house one more time. After one encore song, “Super Evil”, the track that heavily references Neil Blomkamp’s “District 9″,Â the group was back off the stage and the crowd started to filter out. I made my way through the venue across the slippery floor and was handed a free Die Antwoord sticker upon leaving the Double Door. As I walked to my car I noticed the stuffy 82 degree night air actually felt cold against my wet clothes.
If you have any interest in seeing Die Antwoord live, do yourself a favor and try to go to one of their limited engagements across the country. Most of these concerts are already sold out, but you might get lucky. If you don’t ‘get’ this group, then they’re not for you, but they don’t care, and that is the definition of ZEF.