Ministry w/Death Grips, Minneapolis, 27 Oct 2017
I had been indecisive about whether I was going or not--did I feel like showing up?--but the day of the concert I went out to see if tickets were still available.
I made it about 2 blocks before I turned around and went back for a jacket. It was cold! A benefit of living downtown.
The line to get in went down the street and around the corner. I walked past the venue to see if there were separate lines for have-tickets and need-tickets but it looked like one line to me so I added myself to the queue.
I often have remarked that no one smokes anymore. That was not true of the people near me in line. I was surrounded by some of the trashiest people I've rubbed shoulders with in ages. And the eavesdropping -- they were clearly idiots. Although I overheard a conversation where people were proud of some younger relative winning an essay contest, and he would be traveling to D.C. He's so smart, look how much he's grown, etc. One Ministry fan said that Death Grips was too avant-garde for her tastes.
Venue staff were coming around checking IDs and applying wristbands. "Is this the line to buy tickets?" No, he said, up by the doors there's a crowd of people smoking. You should go there.
Everyone was smoking everywhere. "Where do I buy tickets?" Shrug. Dunno. Finally I found someone who pretended to know something, and I either got in a different line or cut way ahead of everyone I was previously behind. At the top of 2 sets of stairs there was one guy scanning phone tickets, taking cash for tickets, and checking the guest list for names. Another guy was handling paper tickets. I heard several people say that the drummer put them on the guest list. None of them actually appeared on the guest list. 2 of them decided to wait it out in a corner to see if a manager could clear that up. Another just decided to fork over the $35 to get in.
The marquee says the name of this venue is Bar Fly, and it was dark, dingy, decrepit. There were 3 bars, so I got in the shortest line, where one woman was opening cans of beer she pulled out of a metal tub of ice water and poured into plastic cups. Plastic cups, plural: a 16-ounce beer was poured into one 10-ounce plastic cup and one 8-ounce plastic cup. OK, I'm double-fisting. Good luck if you bought 2 beers, and if you bought 3? Comical.
So it was chaos, basically, but these are Minnesotans we're talking about, so relatively orderly chaos. I texted Nicola: "These people are terrible. This place is terrible. It's perfect."
I proceeded to find the stage. The floor was packed. The air was thick with reefer smoke. I picked a spot towards the front, against a side wall. Death Grips came out. A 3-piece outfit: drummer, keyboard/electronics, and vocalist. There were no stage lights, but each member of Death Grips had a multitudes of green laser pointers somehow affixed to their hands (the drummer had green and red) and thin beams of light cut across the theater and moved chaotically. The performers themselves were nearly invisible, indistinct shadows. The music was a noisy, deep hip hop sound that reminded me of Dälek or Techno Animal. The effect was great, and the crowd loved it. After 5 or 6 songs they brought up some white stage lights. I was sorry to lose the laser light effect, but the vocalist likely wanted to show off his complete lack of body fat. The definition of wiry, I wondered how many hours a day he spent in the gym.
After their set, I heard a couple guys my age talking about how the kids these days don't even know who Ministry is, etc. And maybe they don't, because it seemed like the crowd became less dense after the Death Grips set. I wandered to the center of the floor. The sides of the stage were appointed with giant inflatable Donald Trump chickens with crossed-out swastikas on their round bellies. Remember how much Ministry hated George Bush, as in George H.W. Bush? I can only imagine how Al Jourgensen feels about the current administration.
The show started and the mosh pit started, and maybe I had an inkling why so much space was available center stage. I was on the periphery, with the mosh between me and the stage. The moshers were an interesting bunch: a skinny guy wearing a conical witch's hat who was buffeted around but seemed impervious, a shirtless muscular hulk, a tall and robust couple who were clearly in love and would occasional pause in the most to embrace, a short guy in an orange t-shirt and glasses, and many more. They rotated almost exclusively counter-clockwise in an oval, getting shoved back towards the center and each other by members of the audience like me. A mosher picked up a lost cell phone off the floor and held it up until he located the owner. One mosher I considered to be the godfather of the mosh, a bald guy with a long white beard, who was always the first to pick someone up if they were knocked to the floor. Everyone was happy to be in the mosh, and maybe that's the nature of the mosh, or maybe it was nostalgia? Can you believe we're in a mosh again? At a Ministry show?
It was pretty hot in the thick of the crowd, and I tied my sweater around my waist, and later my jacket too. That really took me back to the 90s.
Oh yeah, Ministry played music too! They were great, I lost track of their albums after Psalm 69, but Ministry played late Ministry -- it was loud, it was aggressive -- you know what to expect. The songs I truly recognized were NWO, Just One Fix, Thieves, and So What, but they were all recognizably Ministry.
After the encore the house lights came up and people started filtering out. I heard someone at the lightboard say, "Kill the house lights, they're not done!" They came back out and played a cover of Devo's Gates of Steel. There was a guy in the audience who had been wearing a red plastic Devo hat all night, and the hat eventually made it onto Al Jourgensen. It was a sight to see. After the song, Jourgensen said, "I don't even know this guy but if you wear a Devo helmet to a Ministry show, we WILL play Devo!"
(I looked up setlists for other shows this tour, and they've been playing Gates of Steel for the encore of most shows.)
It was midnight, I was tired, it started to snow, and I walked a few blocks home. It was a great show, I hope some of my friends in Seattle and Portland make it to the shows coming up this week.