reCAP :: Die Antwoord :: 2016.10.21
While waiting in line under The Cap’s marquee Friday night, another fan in front of me was shaking with excitement not only to see Die Antwoord live for the first time, but to enjoy his first ever legal drink. He said to his friends “This is a show I’m going to remember for the rest of my life”. Die Antwoord is that special to their fan base. Experiencing the South African ZEF live immediately becomes a highlight of their year; if not a lifetime.
Die Antwoord, the South African rap-rave group broke into the music scene in 2008 and quickly began to gain an international following for their unique style, known as ZEF. The word ZEF is an Afrikaans slang term that means uncool, disgusting, gross and/or trashy. Die Antwoord embraced this derogatory term and completely built their sound, visuals, and personas around the ZEF lifestyle. Their 2016 tour is in promotion of their fourth studio album, Mount Ninji and da Nice Time Kid.
It's interesting and oddly appropriate to see an act like this in a theater like The Cap. While the golden trim arc above the stage relates to Ninja’s grill, the Victorian opera house-esque setting is the complete antithesis of the Die Antwoord ZEF lifestyle. Die Antwoord also seems to bring out the performative side of the fans. As I was waiting for the openers to take the stage, a young woman stepped on my foot and immediately apologized. I then immediately noticed she was wearing whited out eye contacts along with the rest of her rave ensemble. A similar situation during the night involved an Ali G cosplayer greeting me as I was walking into the lobby. When you put all these elements together, it was almost like we weren't supposed to be there. Like a mob of ravers broke into the establishment under the cover of night and invited the most foreign music group they could think of to headline.
Openers Death Trap, a young DJ duo, warmed up the crowd with some house and trap mixes. What was surprising to me was the addition of Rage against the Machine’s “Killing In The Name Of” in their set highlighting the lyrics "F**k you I won't do what you tell me". An appropriate motto for a DJ duo attempting to break the modern stigma of what a rave will consist of. Mixes of EDM, metal and punk, were all present in their setlist from Chief Keef’s “Don’t Like” to System of Down’s “Chop Suey”.
After Death Trap’s warmup set, the stage visuals changed and the lights went out. The crowd atmosphere went from excited to ballistic. Die Antwoord members, Ninja, ¥o-Landi Vi$$er, and DJ Hi Tek had all taken the stage. Ninja especially had a very powerful stage presence, constantly interacting with the crowd by calling out to anyone that wasn’t jumping to the music as “lazy”, crowd surfing and even going as far as requesting that an audience member relinquish his hat to him immediately.
Highlights of the show would be Die Antwoord's performance of their new single,“Banana Brain,” a demonstration of an intense amount of energy and classic rave tonality. Previous hits “Baby’s on Fire,” “Ugly Boy,” “Fatty Boom Boom,” and “I Fink You Freeky,” were all present as well, reaping tons of crowd approval. An additional pleasant surprise was DJ Hi-Tek’s solo performances that took place after every few songs when Yolandi, Ninja, or the backup dancers needed to make a wardrobe change. The mixes seamlessly kept the energy of the crowd palpable while they danced in anticipation of Ninja and Yo-Landi’s return to the stage.
Someone who is unfamiliar with Die Antwoord would probably squint and tilt their head at the idea of a South African rap-rave group, then they would squint and tilt their heads even more when you show them what they look like. However once you show them live footage of Die Antwoord, or better yet, take them to a live performance, they will immediately understand that they are high-caliber performers. Yo-Landi, Ninja, Dj Hi Tek, and their costumed backup dancers all gave an incredible performance; never taking a second to breathe without making sure The Cap’s crowd was enjoying everything they were providing, both audio and visual. Die Antwoord are pure crowd pleasers, but at the same time they are the definition of a serious and committed act; which at it’s core is what keeps the audience coming back. That and the ZEF.