Jonesy was wearing a Dissection t-shirt. His favourite album is Storm of the Light’s Bane. “Easily the metal album I’ve listened to the most,” he said. His second favourite album was, he said, Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101 by Young Jeezy. “I got it right when I first got my car, just drove around listening to it all the time. I know every single word by heart.” His friend Matt was wearing a Suicidal Tendencies cap and a jumper with a print of the Notorious B.I.G. on it, the classic photo of Biggie’s mighty, lugubrious-looking face with a crown sitting askew atop his head. A white t-shirt spilled out the bottom of the jumper and he was doing a very practiced Melbourne shuffle to Kanye West’s Mercy. The hook of the track, an ominous siren-like wail of “It is a weeping / And a moaning / And a gnashing of teeth” orbited the claustrophobic space of The Toff in Town performance room, cast in a coral red, with the stage in blue from an overhead disco ball. The room was electrified from a blend of anticipation of the Flatbush Zombies, three undead entities from Queens, New York, taking the stage. Also from the source of the potent smell that permeated the room.
The stage setup was sparse, a single table on wheels settled with DJ equipment and a recent-model Akai sampler. The curtains soon closed and the crowd shifted further in towards the stage. I was pinched between a tattoo-covered girl in a Supreme t-shirt and pair of fluoro-coloured Nike kicks and a guy in a bucket hat and a Slayer t-shirt. The music died for a moment before Damian Marley’s Welcome to Jamrock erupted on the PA. Three reanimated carcasses were soon on stage, Meechy Darko, Zombie Juice and Erick Arc Elliott, accompanied by a DJ who we could only assume was as hungry for brains as the three resurrections in front of him. They commanded the crowd to put two fingers in the air and snarled as the crowd obeyed.
“Do you motherfuckers have any idea how far we travelled to be here? I slept for 14 hours and we still weren’t here,” said Erick. The Zombies’ in-house (literally) producer was slick and comfortable in the role of MC, captaining the left side of the room for the duration of the set. The set composed of cuts from their debut mixtape D.R.U.G.S., like S.C.O.S.A. (which stands for “Snorting Coke Off a Stripper’s Ass”) and the narcotised anthem Thug Waffle, as well as an A$AP-less rendition of Bath Salt and several tracks from their upcoming release Better Off Dead. “This is some shit no-one else in the world has heard but us,” Meech explained. The previously unheard tracks were boombastic, bassy and swarming with dense, winding synths. “I made all this shit you’re hearing in my bedroom,” said Erick, to the uproar of the crowd.
At one point they took a break, never actually leaving the stage, instead sculling water as Smells Like Teen Spirit blared over the PA, stimulating the moshing instinct of the crowd till it rose like bile out of their throats and was extruded on the floor. “Oh y’all like to mosh, huh?” said Meech, taking it as the green light to stage dive, which he did several times throughout the set. The crowd accepted him with adoring arms each time.
The Flatbush Zombies operated with voodoo-like magnetism, stirring the melting pot that bounced in front of them — Juice high-fiving a whiteboy in a Black Flag T-shirt and a pencil moustache. “Better Off Dead is coming soon and I ain’t a liar,” said Meech before giving the audience a final decree, “I came all the way here just to tell you this one thing: open your minds.”