TBD Fest day one: Death Grips actually shows up

Chaz Bundwick of Toro y Moi // Brian Breneman

Sure, the gates opened a half hour late. And sure, you could still see staff running around carrying potted plants hours after that. Day one of TBD Fest still delivered the goods—and, thankfully, some big improvements from its inaugural year.

TBD’s efforts to mitigate the dust actually worked. There was plenty of water, albeit at a pretty hidden station, and much more shaded seating. The VIP area, too, actually looked VIP. 

The first sizable crowd of the day formed for Toro y Moi, who we profiled in this week’s issue. Despite a very, very long sound check and many “Toro! Toro!” chants, the band took a little while to find its groove. Once found, though, that psychedelic, funky groove sounded excellent.

Megan James of Purity Ring // Brian Breneman

Canadian electronic duo Purity Ring shortly followed with a beautiful, spellbinding set. The lights, stage design and Megan James’ futuristic bodysuit all helped create that effect—aptly placed fans even blew her hair at just the right angles—but it was James’ elegant, pitch-perfect voice that hypnotized most.

Then, Death Grips—yes, they actually showed up!—began with a flurry of drums and screaming and head banging. Hilariously, ballet dancers with Capital Dance Project were still twirling mere feet away—their movements definitely did not match the hardcore punk aggression from Sacramento’s legendary experimental hip-hop group, but at this point, frankly, no one was watching them anyway.

Death Grips’ Stefan Burnett in all his glory // Brian Breneman

Performing in front of a blindingly white screen, the members of Death Grips just looked like silhouettes for their whole set. Frenzied crowd surfers lunged toward the stage, hoping to get a better look at Stefan Burnett a.k.a. MC Ride, before getting consumed again by what will likely be the biggest mosh pit all weekend. As promised, Zach Hill was a beast on drums, Burnett was primal on the mic and they didn’t pause for the entirety of their 45-minute set. They played fast and loud and hard and did I say loud? I don’t know if I’ll ever hear the same way again.

Tyler, the Creator // Brian Breneman

In that Death Grips pit was Tyler, the Creator. The co-founder of the Odd Future collective kept up the loud aggressive rapping trend, so much so that a kid passed him an inhaler. Tyler was stoked. “You birthed a really fucking great child, lady,” he told the kid’s mom. Then he proceeded to rap about fucking women without permission. Ahem.

The Glitch Mob closed out the night with bass-heavy, glitchy electronica and the trio’s super impressive art-slash-instrumental installation, the Blade. Each member had its own giant sample pad that faced the audience, plus futuristic drums for visually dramatic banging. If we’re comparing with last year, Glitch Mob > Moby, definitely.

The Glitch Mob // Brian Breneman

The festival’s layout stayed similar, with four stages, a small shopping village, a chefs battle area and nearly 20 cool art installations throughout. New this year, aerial and fire dancers were hired to entertain—you might even run into performers on stilts.

Only the food selection seems to have faltered this year, with far fewer restaurant and chef vendors. There’s Federalist, oddly making breakfast burritos instead of pizza, salads from Preservation & Co. and LowBrau’s usual array of sausages. Otherwise, food trucks. Maybe that’ll change over the weekend—a few vendor spots looked unintentionally empty.

The chefs battles, now “Demolicious Derby” competitions between non-food truck chefs in food trucks, were a little dull as well. You can’t see anything going on inside a food truck, which attempts to be compensated by a still camera inside. (It fails.) Then it becomes up to the chefs to be incredibly audibly engaging. It worked for Kevin O’Conner of Saddle Rock, who teased his opponent and flirted with the crowd—and then fed them generous free portions of deep-fried pork shoulder. But it was less successful for a later, very silent battle. Still, hard to argue with free food.

More photos below. TBD Fest continues today with Pretty Lights, Porter Robinson and Chance the Rapper.

Festival-goers check out Portal, by Tre Borden // Brian Breneman

Ty Dolla $ign // Brian Breneman

Brodie Jenkins // Cathedrals

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