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So Many Gecs, So Little Time

Auto-Tune, guitar shredding, booming beats, a very sweet song about a frog—the hyperpop duo had the smartest kind of dumb fun at the Armory.

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Lotsa good bands make you feel like they’re getting away with something, and a few of the best really are. Not that 100 gecs are a “band,” exactly. They’re just two stoned rocktronic gremlins who overload their tracks like Applebee’s nachos and reek of untrustworthy mischief. I love them, and so when Laura Les and Dylan Brady arrived in town to douse the Armory in excess Auto-Tune, I wasn’t about to miss out.

Tuesday night began with the same thrumming, expanding noise that the duo’s latest album, 10,000 gecs, does: the THX sound effect, a lil gag maybe about how the scrappy duo have gone hi-fi. After an electronic pow-pow-pow, a galvanic guitar, playing what sounded like the riff from Papa Roach’s “Last Resort” scrambled and reconfigured, 100 gecs announced “Dumbest Girl Alive,” which laughs off mope-rock self-loathing without pretending we don’t all fall prey to it. “I’m so happy I could die/Put emojis on my grave/I’m the dumbest girl alive,” Les sang for everyone.

Gecs performed all 10 tracks from their bigger and bolder new album last night. If 2019's debut album 1000 gecs was termite pop, gnawing away at genre from inside its rotten foundations, 10,000 gecs is where Brady and Les prove they can stomp around like elephants if they want. The jokes are more legible, which won’t mollify the sourpusses who didn’t get ’em last time (like we should care) but might hook thrill-seekers who hadn’t been paying attention. You want pop-punk? “Hollywood Baby” nails it, right down to Brady’s whiny “I’m gow-win’ cray-zee.” But it’s gecs pop-punk, self-consciously reconstructed, with a homemade artificial sheen, flaunting its seams, getting off on the fact that they’ve duplicated the sheer aural sensation of the original item.  

1000 gecs was the sort of goofily fractured noise that the tasteful insist they like ironically (if they deign to enjoy it at all) because they’re worried the joke might be on them, which in turn forces others to say they like it “unironically.” People! This is too much work for a group singing about punching a jockey out because you blew your money at the track and then driving home with a horse in your Porsche! Their audiences, who skew too young for winky nostalgia, bless ’em, never seem to be doing such aesthetic gymnastics. The crowd was certainly willing to take gecs’ earnest moments at face value: During the soulful balladic intro to “I Got My Tooth Removed,” young cuties of multiple genders cuddled and kissed ("unironically"). Then they picked-it-up and hopped around when the ska part kicked in. 

The last time I saw 100 gecs, at the Fine Line in 2020, just days before COVID sealed us inside for the rest of the year, the duo ran out of songs and had to encore with the dementedly revved up electro-ska number “stupid horse,” which they’d already played. (They could have repeated the whole album and the kids wouldn’t have cared.) Now that they’ve got plenty to choose from (they even dipped into their first EP, 100 gecs, which I often forget exists, sometimes when I’m listening to it) they crammed 21 songs into about 75 minutes. And that’s with a space between each song for Les to crack wise. 

With dry stoner humor, Les parodied concert banter, typically starting a song introduction with “have any of you ever?” (F’rinstance, “fallen 4 Ü” was preceded by “Have any of you ever been to a concert before? That’s cool. We have too and we wrote a song about it.”). A good bit! “Have any of you ever heard a ringtone before?” Les asked before one of gecs’ sweeter songs, the adorable “ringtone” (“My boy’s got his own ringtone/It’s the only one I know”) then she praised the group’s “relatable songs.” When she woo-ed and we woo-ed louder, she quipped, “Love that crowd engagement.” She also promised, “Next tour I’m gonna try to make people play hopscotch,” and all I can say is why wait till then, Laura? 

At one point, Les asked “Have you ever seen an animal tear up your floor?” and a girl behind me screamed “IT’S A FROG!!!” And that girl was right—what followed was the silly yet surprisingly sweet “Frog on the Floor.” The song brims with sympathy for a frog that likes to party with humans, its vibe suggesting one of those moments when you get super-high and unexpectedly wax sentimental about the most random thing. “Give him some space, he's still workin' it out,” the gecs sing. “Give him some space, he doesn't know what people think about.” Now that’s, as Les would say, “relatable.” (Also, I now want to make a playlist of my favorite frog songs, starting with Clarence “Frogman” Henry’s “Ain’t Got No Home” and ending with this.)

In addition to Les’s nimble, clever guitar shredding (dig those Sonny Sharrock harmonics on “Doritos and Fritos”) 10,000 gecs features an actual human drummer on half the tracks and even a three-person horn section on one. Not that the duo bothered to recreate most of that live—what kind of slackers do you not take them for? Instead, Brady operated a laptop perched on a trash can, though who knows (or cares) how much more he was doing than pressing play. 

For fans of “real music” (it is to lol) there were some guitars. Les had a fiery little electric showcase, and the duo brought out a pair of acoustics for a quiet version of one song. True, “gecgecgec (Unplugged)” was maybe more funny conceptually than it was actually necessary, and it took nearly as long to set up for that number as it did to play the song itself. But at the end, with Les’s encouragement, Brady balanced the guitar on his chin, so who am I to complain? “This is our Elvis Christmas Special tour,” Les explained of their willingness to indulge in stupid human tricks.

True to their dirtbag steez, both gecs dress baggily and have stringy blond hair; Brady’s was partly concealed behind a star-brimmed wizard hat. And true to their love of unnatural noise, their unfiltered voices were rarely heard: If they weren’t up-pitched like the duo had inhaled helium they were pixelated into digital shards. The most whacked-out Atlanta trap stoner is not more committed to the tweedling annoyance of Auto-Tune abuse than are our gecs—they didn’t even always turn it off between songs. 

For all the duo’s artistic development, if you’d like to call it that, the gecsthetic is “what if we smooshed together the best parts of all our favorite songs?” and as ’90s babies that means nu-metal and pop-punk and mallrat dubstep and just plain fucking around with beats. When they’re cruising along, their core rhythm is quick and simple, its relentless mania an unlikely overlap between happy hardcore and third-wave ska, until they crash into a wall of their own design. “One Million Dollars” samples a Speak & Spell, “The Most Wanted Person in the United States” ricochets with cartoon sound effects, and “Billy Knows Jamie” crumbles into death-metal cookie-monster growls. You gotta be smart as hell to be this dumb. 

As gec-fixated as they were, though some in the crowd were maybe too young to be entirely on the same sarcastic wavelength yet. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, you know what’s up,” Les said when the duo came back onstage for an encore, mocking the silly ritual. But many of the kids had already headed for the door, and not because they’d had enough—they’d just taken Les at her word moments earlier when she said “100dbcloud” was their last song of the night. They’ll learn soon enough, and 100 gecs are the best sort of bad role models to teach ’em. 

Setlist

Dumbest Girl Alive
757
stupid horse
Frog on the Floor
ringtone
fallen 4 Ü
Hollywood Baby
I Got My Tooth Removed
what's that smell
Hey Big Man
The Most Wanted Person in the United States
Billie Knows Jamie
One Million Dollars
Doritos & Fritos
xXXi_wud_nvrstøp_ÜXXx
gecgecgec
Torture Me
hand crushed by a mallet
money machine
mememe
800db cloud

Encore
bloodstains
gec 2 Ü

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