Less than two-hundred sleepless bodies had packed into the tiny venue, each one delirious after spending a night camped out on the cold, rainy streets of Brooklyn for tickets. The crowd was ravenous and zombie-like, their limbs limp from exhaustion and bodies smelling of cement and decay. The venue, a dimly-lit 250-capacity room situated in the back corner of Brooklyn’s Rough Trade, buzzed with violent delight. Gorillaz had promised a party for the end of the world, and for 150 lucky fans, the party was about to begin.
Last Friday, Rough Trade quietly announced that Gorillaz – a band synonymous with sold-out stadium shows and multi-platinum records – would be doing a small in-store performance to celebrate the release of their new album, HUMANZ. The venue provided a set of simple instructions for gaining entry: pre-order the album on the day of the show in exchange for a ticket… while supplies last. The naïve believed that this meant they could clock into line at 5:00 am and be guaranteed a spot at the show. Seasoned Gorillaz veterans knew otherwise, and interpreted this announcement as both a warning and a challenge.
By 2:30 am on the day of the show, the line to pre-order the album (and secure access to the performance) had reached 150 people. While it’s not surprising that 150 New Yorkers would sacrifice both their sanity and their first-borns in exchange for a Gorillaz ticket, it is a bit shocking that so many people had the audacity to camp out overnight in uncharacteristically cold April temperatures and post-apocalyptic rain. The weather was awful. Every person in the Gorillaz crowd was destined to be exhausted, dirty, and appropriately miserable. And yet, as soon as tickets were secured, the misery was assuaged. The exhaustion worsened, but by the time the band came onstage, it only made the show even more fun (in a “party for the end of the world” type-of-way).
My friend and I were numbers 149 and 148 in line, respectively. It was only at around 11:00 am the next morning that the venue confessed there were only 150 tickets available. We were the cut-off. By the time Rough Trade opened its doors that morning, the line for tickets was over 600 people and spanned four blocks.
For this Gorillaz show, there were no projections. Nobody seemed to mind, as Damon Albarn’s hyper-animated performance quickly assured fans that their long, rainy wait had been worth the suffering. The band seamlessly grooved through the entire new album (minus “Hallelujah Money”) from start to finish, before finishing with an encore of “Last Living Souls,” “Kids With Guns,” and “Clint Eastwood”. Albarn draped himself over fans’ flushed faces, drowned the crowd in water bottle after water bottle, and smoked a blunt from a disembodied hand in the crowd. To close out the show, Albarn invited an eager fan onstage to rap Del the Funky Homosapien’s verse in “Clint Eastwood” – although the fan explained that she was “tripping balls” and would just dance around, instead. Again, nobody seemed to mind – the show was bursting with the electric energy of 150 desperate bodies and a strident Damon Albarn. The air seeped with dynamite.
There was something dangerous about this crowd. The fans were exhausted, but they were desperately happy. The room hummed with a camaraderie only achieved by 150 bodies camped out together in the rain. This was both a concert and a commune. By the time Damon had left the stage once and for all, it was a family.
Speaking too much about this show feels like oversharing a dirty secret. To be honest, there’s not much I can say in reflection other than “wow” followed by a series of expletives. Trying to capture the magic of Gorillaz’s Rough Trade performance in prose spoils the vicious fun of the Gorillaz experience. This show is a secret best kept between the 150 people who experienced it firsthand; it will live on forever as distorted memories, poorly-lit Instagram videos, and in bar-side chats. I don’t know what I can say to bottle 24 hours of Gorillaz madness in a blog post. What I can say, wholeheartedly, is this: welcome to the party for the end of the world. Welcome to HUMANZ.
The new album HUMANZ is out today (4/28/17) and ready for your consumption via CD, vinyl, iTunes, streaming sites, etc.
Those following Modern Girls on Instagram got to experience the show in real-time via Instagram live. Pretend Megan didn’t freak out when Damon grabbed her phone during the video and started singing into it onstage.
Photos and words by Megan, who is still trying to catch up on sleep after camping out for this show.