I didn’t quite know what to expect as I walked up to Rock and Roll Hotel. I knew I was in for some grimy beats and brutal unapologetic punk rock, courtesy of Mellowhype and Trash Talk respectively, but as for the kind of crowd. As I walked through the door, though, it seemed Trash Talk frontman Lee Spielman had an answer for me, describing the crowd on the mic as hip-hop kids who couldn’t tell if they were into punk rock and punk rock kids who couldn’t tell if they were into hip-hop, but more importantly an inbetweener crowd on the verge of realizing both genres are built on the same principles, two camps on the same side. A correct assessment, Lee, a correct assessment indeed.
STREAM: Trash Talk – “Exile On Broadway”
STREAM: Mellowhype – “Grill”
Mellowhype took the stage to screams of joy and flailing arms. A high-pitched “HODGAAAAYYYY!!!” emanated from the crowd, forcing a chuckle from both Hodgybeats and Leftbrain, members of the Odd Future collective. Right from the get go they energetically patrolled the stage and got the young crowd involved in the performance as much as possible. Their set seemed improvised, bouncing around between tracks until they found something they wanted to play or until they got a reaction from the crowd. At one point, Leftbrain said, “Nah, fuck that,” prompting Hodgy to move on to the next one. If the crowd were a two-liter bottle of soda, Mellowhype gave it a furious shaking, building up the pressure and allowing the energy to slowly reach the peak.
When Trash Talk took the stage, they took that soda bottle and slammed it on the ground. The place erupted with a violent explosion of energy. Bodies flew across the room and off of the stage, in direct defiance of the “NO CROWD SURFING/NO STAGE DIVING” signs posted around the venue. Lee felt obligated to reassure the hard-at-work security team that they were in control and there was nothing to worry about. They were there to have a good time and they were going to do it in proper fashion.
The scene was one of controlled chaos and smiling faces. During one of the set’s many breakdowns, Lee was lying on the stage writhing in front of the press crowd. A girl was kneeling next to the stage shooting a video with her phone. Lee grabs the phone, almost slams it on the stage, and proceeds to dial “9-1-1.” A small pocket of laughter could be heard coming from that side area as he hit “call” and immediately jumped back into the performance.
The band and crowd gradually grew into one symbiotic organism. The crowd reacted to the band, the band reacted to the crowd. Participation was encouraged, if not a prerequisite if you happened to be up front. Everyone drank the tasty Trash Talk Kool-Aid and went all in. When asked to tell the security crew “It’s all good!” the crowd obliged. When asked “Someone go fuck with those people,” pointing to the press crew side stage, someone jumped up on stage and landed on top of the small, unfortunate group of camera holders. At one point, Lee jumped into the crowd and told everyone to circle pit around him at the start of the next number. Naturally, they did. When told “Everyone get on this fucking stage,” to the dismay of the security team, everyone got on that fucking stage.
When songs like “Awake,” “Exile on Broadway,” and “Sacramento is Dead” are being performed right in front of you, it’s hard not to lose your shit and have a great time. Although my one beef with the show — and there is only ONE — is that Hodgybeats did not rap his verse on “Blossom and Burn,” a song off of Trash Talk’s new album, 119, featuring Hodgy and Tyler the Creator.
Aside from that, the performance was mesmerizing, an homage to the early days of hardcore and a demonstration of unifying powers of music. Hip-hop kids and punks came together for one single purpose: to witness pure self-expression. Trash Talk got down when Mellowhype performed and Mellowhype got down when Trash Talk played. Watching the entire spectacle unfold got my adrenaline pumping and awoke a voice in my head that I had not heard since my early show going days: “Get in the pit. Do it.”