Last night’s sold out Die Antwoord show at the Regency Ballroom was bizarre and high energy. They are unique and right now are dangling on the precipice of being a 10’s flash in the pan joke or riding the wave of kitsch fame into niche cult-infamy.
For a solid minute before Die Antwoord took the stage, a video of Leon Botha, the one-time longest living survivor of progeria (he died on his 26th birthday in June 2011) stared back at an audience full of Yolandi Vi$$er clones. Botha, also from Capetown, spent the last years of his life as an artist and close friend of the group. Then the duo took to the stage in matching orange traffic-cone colored sweats to the debut single from the new album Ten$ions Fok Julle Naaiers, which loosely translates from Afrikaans as “Fuck You All,” and is thought to be directed at Interscope Records.
If you have never heard of Die Antwoord, here is a brief history of how they went from South African internet sensation to selling out show after show in the United States; In 2009 front man Ninja and Yolandi Vi$$er formed the group with DJ Hi-Tek and released the album $O$ for free online. They made a string of eye-catching and confoundingly weird music videos for the singles Zef Side, Enter the Ninja, Rich Bitch and Evil Boy that literally went viral—collecting 25 million hits on their official Youtube—and bringing “Zef” to the mainstream (The definition of Zef varies from white trash to ghetto fabulous to working class or some combination of the three).
Interscope Records flew them first class from Capetown to Los Angeles, where they signed a million-dollar deal. After they finished recording Ten$ions, Interscope wanted them to rework it to make it more “accessible” to the public. In November 2011 they ditched the money, the contract, and Interscope and released Ten$ions on their own independent label last month.
Last night, Ninja and Yolandi seemingly never stopped moving on stage. Ninja opened the show with a crowd surf and continued doing it every couple songs or so as the mood stuck. They clearly appreciate their audience and its refreshing.
At various times throughout the show, Ninja launched into the freestyle raps that give him credibility as an MC, his veins popping and straining and his sweat dripping down over the new Ten$ions tattoo scrawled across his stomach.
Yolandi is small and creepy but powerful and dangerous— like a Furby in the Oval Office. Ninja is the puppet-master with Yolandi clearly commanding the highest stage presence, with costume changes, flapping mullet and wide gallops across the stage. The audience screamed every time she opened her mouth and rapped in the helium-laced falsetto that has become signature to their sound.
Die Antwoord has mastered satire by being mostly serious. DJ Hi-Tek’s beats are commanding and Ninja and Yolandi have a fluid connection (she is his baby-mama in real life) that translates to solid tracks and a high-energy stage presence.
Who knows what Die Antwoord would have been on Interscope and who wants to?