BROCKHAMPTON: An American Boy Band in Portland

Vortex Music Magazine

Orange jumpsuits. Blue face paint. Surgeon masks. One Direction T-shirts. It’s a strange variety of looks, but it’s what surrounded the Crystal Ballroom last Friday night as hordes of fans swarmed the building for a sold-out show from one of the biggest boy bands in music today.

Brockhampton at the Crystal Ballroom on March 2, 2018. Photo courtesy of Ashlan Grey.Brockhampton at the Crystal Ballroom on March 2, 2018. Photo courtesy of Ashlan Grey.Brockhampton (stylized BROCKHAMPTON) has redefined the term “boy band.” Though the term typically brings to mind the image of a group of young men belting out love songs to screaming girls around the world, the 14-member California band have placed the label on their own brash hip-hop. Many publications try to avoid the term, often referring to them as a “hip-hop collective,” but leading man Kevin Abstract and crew stand firmly on their identity.

“Best boy band since One Direction,” Abstract raps on the Saturation III track “Boogie.”

Though simply listening to the band’s music wouldn’t make “boy band’ ring out in one's head, being at a Brockhampton show shines a spotlight on just what makes the term so fitting.

Well before doors, fans lined up, completely wrapping the block of the Crystal Ballroom. At 8:00, the venue overflowed with bodies packed as close to the stage as possible. The mass of their fans were under 21, so the whole of the Crystal floor, save for a small corner for the bar in the back, was open to the kids.

Brockhampton at the Crystal Ballroom on March 2, 2018. Photo courtesy of Ashlan Grey. Brockhampton at the Crystal Ballroom on March 2, 2018. Photo courtesy of Ashlan Grey. The stage set was just as creative as the band’s music. With a carpet, couch, chairs and even a vintage television, the theme for the night was dancing alone in your living room. The tone set by this visual choice matched perfectly with Brockhampton’s own energy. Watching them on stage is like being invited into a private party where there was only one rule: Dance like nobody’s watching. They traded bars, joked and jumped around like they were having the time of their lives. Everyone in the crowd followed suit.

For nearly two hours, moving swiftly through material off their Saturation Trilogy, Brockhampton shot adrenaline straight into the room, shaking the floorboards and walls of the Crystal Ballroom. Fifteen hundred bodies pushed to the front, jumped, danced and screamed at ear- shattering volume.

Between tracks, the band’s personalities shone bright. In the middle of the set, as impromptu as it could get, Kevin Abstract lent his mic out to the crowd for a Q&A portion.

“What will Brockhampton’s first feature be?” one fan asked.

“Lil Uzi Vert,” Abstract joked. The band members exploded in excitement at the prospect.

“What’s it like to be a living legend?” another asked.

Without skipping a beat, Abstract answered: “That’s a question for Jaden Smith.”

Though their upbeat rap stylings and widely praised creative beats bring to mind Odd Future and Wu-Tang Clan more than One Direction and 5 Seconds of Summer, all signs at a Brockhampton show, when the spotlight shines on the fans, the band members, and the dynamic that rises between them, point to the label that the 14-man company so proudly touts.

Though their latest record, Saturation III, was sarcastically dubbed the band’s final studio album, it will fortunately be quite a while before Brockhampton goes the way of One Direction. 2018 is braced for the release of Brockhampton’s fourth full length, Team Effort.

Brockhampton at the Crystal Ballroom on March 2, 2018. Photo courtesy of Ashlan Grey.Brockhampton at the Crystal Ballroom on March 2, 2018. Photo courtesy of Ashlan Grey.Playing loud over the speakers, all members standing in line at the front of the stage, looking out proudly Brockhampton showed Portland what they are ready to release unto the world.

And as the encore began, the crowd once again losing their minds and bodies in the moment, Abstract definitively declared:

“You are now witnessing the greatest boy band in the world.”

No one protested.

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