By: Seamus Fay and John Matraia
About a week or two back, at the Sonia, a small venue connected to the Middle East Club, we saw Arizona rap trio Injury Reserve along with New Jersey’s Ho99o9, who make a mix of punk rock and hardcore rap.
Injury Reserve was the opening act at the show, and I must say, it was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. Missing their DJ and producer, Parker Corey, Ritchie With a T and Stepa Groggs had to play each song one after the other without any time wasted, as they had the entire set loaded on a MacBook computer on stage (Corey is working on their EP dropping this year, which is one of our most anticipated EPs for 2017). Throughout the show, Ritchie switched back and forth between two microphones, one with autotune on it and one without, as he belted out smooth, autotune solos minutes after some songs were over, all the while having the audience extremely attentive with every note that came out.
Starting off without lights as a smooth piano track, which didn’t sound familiar to the crowd, played, Ritchie slowly walked onto the stage followed by Stepa as they were greeted with the keys slowly forming into those of the opening notes of”Oh S**t!!!”. After a few moments of silence and suspense, Ritchie broke the silence with an authoritative “LET’S F*CKING GO! OH SH*T!!!”, immediately throwing the crowd head first into the chaos that is an Injury Reserve show. The atmosphere during this first song was amazing, to say the least, and it truly set the tone for the rest of the show. The two artists continued right into “Bad Boys 3”, both killing it and doing so with ease. They brought the same charisma that you hear on the real album to the stage, all the while adding elements of showmanship to the songs to make for a better show.
“What’s Goodie” was the next track they performed which was another absolute banger off of FLOSS. The chemistry between Stepa and Ritchie was great on this one, giving the crowd no choice but to remain invested in their back-and-forth deliveries and over the top antics. They switched it up after this and performed “Washed Up” from their first (official) mixtape Live at the Dentist Office, one of the least in-your-face tracks on the project. And yet the live version was tremendously energetic, mostly due to Ritchie screaming his heart out into the mic during the hook. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen and it was something I’ll never forget. It’s usually a pretty sad song but this performance definitely changed how I will listen to it in the future.
“Eeny Meeney Miney Moe” is one of the most energetic tracks from the trio’s most recent album, and being in the pit for that one was utter chaos. The best part of the performance was at the end of the track when Ritchie started to walk away on the stage with his back to the audience, suddenly turning and yelling “LET’S GO! AHHHHHH!” with what seemed like all the energy his body could give. He went down on his knees and screamed into the mic in a fashion that proved his showmanship better than any artist I’ve seen, solidifying the sacrifice of energy that goes into his performances.
“Keep on Slippin’” was next, and right before the song played a fellow member of the crowd blurted out “I’m gonna cry” which, as the song went on, may not have been very unrealistic based on the way that the two performers put their all into it. I was mesmerized by the way that Ritchie seemed to feel the magnitude of every word he said, and Groggs followed his emotion with a very calmed-down delivery about some of his deepest struggles that he faces. Yet the group spent no time recovering from this, throwing themselves into a completely different gear with “All This Money”, prompting Stepa to take his shirt as others from the crowd copied him. The second the opening notes played was the second we knew it was going to be amazing. This was a fan-favorite from “FLOSS” for everyone, and that only followed into the live performance.
After this, the lights went low and Stepa left the stage for Ritchie to perform his solo track from Live at the Dentist’s Office called “ttktv”. This was one that I didn’t expect to be performed but it ended up being one of the best solo performances I’ve ever experienced. Ritchie became more intense as the song progressed, completely changing the entire mood of the song through his spectacular vocals and passionate yelling into the mic, a skill that changed the momentum and feeling of the concert with ease. His autotune vocals at the end of the track were beautiful. He got down on one knee and faced the stage with his back to the crowd, singing, “I just need a- I just need a-” all leading up to the beat drop. And just when the crowd reached peak energy right before the drop, he did what looked like a somersault backward into the crowd and the mosh followed his as he maneuvered his way through the crowd of fans. It seemed like only 5 seconds later when we turned around he somehow magically appeared back on stage, and the fans kept moshing for minutes after until Ritchie calmed everyone down.
After Injury Reserve was the headliners, Ho99o9, a group that neither of us knew before the tour was announced, and a group that neither of us necessarily would have gone to see live had we known about them before. But the energy during the Ho99o9 set was tremendous. Right as they got on stage, the crowd transformed from a tight group of fans all faced toward the stage to a circle of brewing energy, containing some people that weren’t even looking at the band. The mosh pit was more open, and therefore more dangerous. It was intense. I personally went into the pit for the banger “Splash” off of their newest record, and it was something else. I immediately was splashed in the face with some sort of liquid, which was fitting for the song, but I exited the mosh pretty quick. The complete disregard for pain and the actions of the crowd, all of which were fueled by the adrenaline that everyone in the room felt, led us to mostly watch in awe during Ho99o9’s part of the show, used to less intense rap shows.
However, Ho99o9 was pretty amazing. They changed the way I view punk music, and I feel that I understand the energy and concept of it better as a whole now that I have seen the way it manifests live.
Ultimately, it was simply a night of being comfortable in your own skin. As artists who perform in front of hundreds of people this is probably expected, but I feel like it was on a different level last night. At one point, Groggs took off his shirt to reveal his pot belly, only to embrace it with a few lines in a verse a few minutes after. This inspired the short, slightly heavy kid next to me, who proceeded to rip his shirt off while screaming at Groggs in praise. Groggs acknowledged it, pointing at him with excitement, and the kid next to me was suddenly hit with a new burst of energy, jumping and raging as hard as ever with the following songs. Watching Injury Reserve directly affect him hit me with a realization about how influential artists and music can be in our lives. They can give us confidence and pride when it seems like nothing else can, and listening to music helps people to immediately drop their outside concerns to fully embrace the energy; a beautiful aspect of it.