Written by Candace Fernandez
Photos by Chloe Gonzalez
The first time I heard about 100 gecs was on a first date. Newly out of high school and still drowning in the melancholia of my adolescence, the music I frequented at the time began and ended at the subdued melodies of Cate le Bon, Billie Marten and Julia Jacklin. Always desiring for a past now undone, I struggled to connect with the upbeat synths alive within the electronic music popular among my peers, and the flaxen-haired duo was no exception.
While at the time I couldn’t relate to the musical preferences of the girl I’d just met, I attended 100 gecs’ LA show with her three years later, my melancholy now abandoned and my feet dancing freely in the present.
While 100 gecs is merely upheld hyperpop to many, their music led me out of the somber stupor I had been melodically drowning in for much too long. I understand their sound as a refusal of emotional repression, and when I first arrived at the Hollywood Palladium to attend their show, the candor inhabited by those waiting in line only solidified this notion. Immediately lost in a swirl of fishnets, hair dye and alcohol-induced exuberance, those standing outside the venue had come dressed for the occasion – their excitement brimming with conversational grins and shifting glances that echoed a desire to see, and be seen
As we entered the venue and moved straight towards the merch line, I watched the room come alive as the crowd filled up the Palladium’s fishbowl-shaped center. After purchasing a t-shirt and a Red Bull, we entered the sea ourselves, now enshrined in the nostalgia of a close crowd and the warmth of stranger’s shoulders. Once we found our place, we were only waiting for a short while, the lights dimming soon enough and voices roaring in anticipation for the Long Island-born opener.
When the lights sobered, Machine Girl began without much introduction. In heavy thrashes and incoherent vocals, the musical project’s founder Matt Stephenson and drummer Sean Kelly guided the room into industrial symbiosis, with the clamor of their music hypnotizing the audience into captivated head jerks and locked eyes. As the room broke out into mosh pits, Stephenson started his journey around the room, engaging with the back of the crowd and performing from the mosh pits themselves.
As the energy built, Stephenson surprised me when he picked up a guitar, intensifying an already heightened performance and challenging my own notions of what I expected a Machine Girl show to be. Through their use of unexpected instruments and my own struggle to decipher specific tracks beyond “Athoth a Go!! Go!!,” “Frenesi” and “Congratulations” within the amalgamation of this performance, I felt as if I was discovering Machine Girl for the first time; an experience of interior liberation, where their refusal to be reduced reminds the self of its innate interminability.
As Machine Girl’s opening set came to a close, the crowd was now drenched in sweat, people using hats to fan those around them and a rain of unknown liquid firing through the air. After a short pause to catch our breath and rehydrate, 100 Gecs came out, introducing themself with a mention of their tired state, a reality that was undetectable in the energy of the performance that was to come.
Adorned in their familiar garb of a spiked wizard hat and patterned cloak, Laura Les and Dylan Brady–the pair behind 100 gecs–limited their stage time to musical performance. Conversation merely served as an indicative precursor to hint at the next coming track, allowing the crowd a few seconds to bubble up with excitement before each song was performed.
Playing most of the songs off their latest album 10,000 gecs, the impact of the 2023 release was revealed by the crowd’s uninhibited commotion. During track’s as “Dumbest Girl Alive,” “Doritos & Fritos” and “Frog On The Floor” it felt as if everyone in the room knew the lyrics, with friends either scream-singing the words at each other while jumping around or inhabiting limitless excitement when getting thrown throughout the now ballroom-sized mosh pit.
The show was both cathartic and celebratory, a reality that mirrors the loud, yet wholesome music of 100 gecs themself. During songs as “stupid horse,” “ringtone” and “gec 2 Ü” the audience’s lyrical mastery for tracks off their debut, 2019 album 1,000 gecs revealed a closer connection to the musical pair, where the thrill embodied by much of the audience can be compared to the elation felt when reuniting with an old friend.
It’s clear that much of the crowd held a deeper relationship with 100 gecs than their playful external image would seem to allow for; an intensity that spoke to the power of the musical duo. The ability to reach the depths of their audience through the guise of upbeat electronics reflects a non-normative pathway to emotional impact, and a redefinition for what meaningful music can be.
After an extensive, audience-oriented performance, 100 gecs came to a close by playing their most streamed song “Hollywood Baby” twice. With this show being at the Hollywood Palladium, it felt surreal to be in the neighborhood that the duo was singing about, and their rerun of the song showed that sentiment was dually felt. As the track informs listeners “you’ll never make it in Hollywood, baby,” the pair pokes fun at the ideal of chasing a creative dream in Los Angeles, where people often spend their time “in the crib going crazy” as they lose themself in the upkeep of a digestible image and become more distant from their art.
The song brings the audience home to the reality that creative fulfillment is not bound by the artificial nature of the entertainment world. Rather, it affirms that a failure to succeed in a place like Hollywood should be understood as a gift, as it bars the artist from losing themself and going ‘crazy,’ as conformity to pop culture ideals in the name of success is dangerous to the purity of creative exploration.
As we moved back towards our car, I couldn’t help but keep dancing, my hands interlocked with that girl I now knew well. I Ieft feeling invigorated by that same freedom 100 gecs allowed me some years ago, and a reconfigured gratitude for the vibrancy of life’s pulse.