This piece is dedicated to my favorite person in the world, M. Berlin, though he might not love me as much.
“There are two kinds of people in the world, those who know about Die Antwoord, and those who are about to find out.”
I stand outside the Gramercy Theater, watching people dressed as cowboys and Indians enter the venue to find standing room for Die Antwoord. This is going to be interesting, I think to myself. As if Die Antwoord wasn’t theatrical enough, the show has to take place on Halloween weekend, making it impossible to separate the everyday run-of-the-mill freaks from the fakers. This makes for a most disorienting experience. The band in itself is an inspiring visual masterpiece of at-home, prison-ish tattoos and big dicks in Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon boxer shorts.
My friends raved about Die Antwoord’s set at Coachella just this past year and I had been trying to get on the bandwagon ever since. Antwoord is one of those bands that I feel obligated to appreciate for their sheer level of absurdity bordering self-parody, even if I can’t imagine buying any of their music or listening to it for enjoyment purposes. They’re just a little more out of the box than I normally care to venture. Their last video featured a forest of dildos for fuck’s sake.
But enough about that. Let’s Enter the Antwoord.
On the back wall, grainy footage of Die Antwoord’s teeth and tattoos plays. The images have the same greenish, grainy quality that I so loved in Hostel and other such films about getting body parts sawed off. Oh, the terror. The lights rise to reveal a hooded, masked fellow manning the turntables at the back of the stage. This is DJ Fish Sticks, something I learn (to my delight) when the lady half of Die Antwoord, Yo-Landi, yells it later on through a mouth of gold teeth. Soon after, Fish Sticks is joined by his comrades: a hidden man in an outfit that smacks of executioner-cum-burlap bag (Ninja) and a toe-head, menacing-looking blonde (the aforementioned Yo-Landi) in a glorified white Snuggie covered in the band’s signature cartoons – vaguely Aboriginal faces with rounded teeth.
The crowd bounds with the beat immediately. Up and down, up and down. It is an infectious enthusiasm and even though I can’t understand half of the words in their South African lexicon, I find myself yelling “I’m a Ninja/ You a Ninja/ We’s a Ninja/ HUH!” And later, when Ninja instructs us to sing along to a tune loosely about “You’re mother’s private parts in a fish jar” I’m standing with everyone else yelling foul mouthed things repeatedly in words that may as well be German – I have no idea what the fuck I’m saying but I’m pretty sure it’s offensive.
Die Antwoord’s gimmicks are so gimmicky that I have a hard time believing that they aren’t for real. It’s too ridiculous to be fake. Yo-Landi’s post-lobotomy haircut, Ninja’s Vanilla Ice fade, the excessive lyrics about tits and dicks. Halfway through the set, Ninja breaks into an acapella rap, the words clearly audible (though still evading my total comprehension). He’s talking about coming up or being a nobody or something like that and you get struck by the honesty, the serious look in his eyes that tells you this is no joke. And when he is joined soon afterward by Yo-Landi, both getting right back into another song, you get the feeling that you’ve stumbled upon two little kids rehearsing for the rap group they want to form when they grow up into a mirror in their parent’s bedroom. Oddly, you end up being charmed by this terrifying twosome, to the point that when Ninja comes out rapping into a gigantic penis, you want to hug him for being the best little boy he can be.