Review: 100 gecs Bring Maximalist Chaos to Sold-Out Chicago Show

Formed in 2015 by Laura Les and Dylan Brady, 100 gecs  has quickly made a name for themselves with their unique blend of hyper-pop, electronic, and experimental music. Their first EP release in 2017 was what most critics consider a major defining moment for the genre of hyperpop. Their sophomore album and major-label debut, 10,000 gecs, was released in March this year by Atlantic Records and earned overwhelmingly good reviews. I’ve been a fan since 2017, but the single “Hollywood Baby”, which came out a month prior to the full album release, rekindled my mild obsession with their music.

The two St. Louis natives have attracted the attention of huge names in the music industry for a good reason. At first glance, the sound of 100 gecs can be overwhelming, with its frenetic beats, glitchy production, and unapologetic use of auto-tune. However, upon closer inspection, the band's music reveals a meticulous attention to detail and a clever sense of humor. Their discography includes an entire album of remixed songs with features like Fall Out Boy, Craig Owens, Skrillex, Tommy Cash, Tony Velour, Charli XCX, Rico Nasty, and Kero Kero Bonito.

One of the hallmarks of their sound is their use of maximalist production techniques. The duo is known for layering multiple samples and sounds on top of each other, resulting in a chaotic and unpredictable sound. Their music also frequently features unconventional time signatures and tempo changes, which can make their songs feel disorienting and unpredictable.

Despite their unconventional approach to production, 100 gecs' music is undeniably catchy. Laura and Dylan have a knack for writing ear-worm melodies that are just as likely to get stuck in your head as they are to leave you scratching it. Lyrically, their music is often irreverent and absurd, with references to pop culture, internet memes, and inside jokes. Their lyrics can be humorous, cryptic, and even nonsensical at times, but they always feel like an essential component of the band's unique aesthetic.

The electronic music project Machine Girl opened for 100 gecs on Thursday night at the Byline Bank Aragon Ballroom. Fronted by producer and vocalist Matt Stephenson, Machine Girl is known for their intense and aggressive live performances that blend elements of breakcore, punk, and noise music. From the moment the first distorted bass line hit, the set was a whirlwind of chaotic energy.

Machine Girl's frenzied beats and glitchy samples are accompanied by Stephenson's anguished screams and theatrical stage presence, creating a sense of controlled chaos that can be both thrilling and overwhelming. This crowd was a mix of die-hard fans and curious onlookers, all of whom were caught up in the maelstrom of sound and movement that Machine Girl brings to the stage. By the end of their set almost everyone was drenched in sweat, ears ringing with the echoes of distorted sound. I was left with a sense of awe at the sheer intensity and passion that Machine Girl brought to their performance.

100 gecs played what they described as their largest sold-out show ever on 4/20 here in Chicago. The Byline Bank Aragon Ballroom is a 5,000 capacity venue, which is an impressive sight to behold when sold out. Even after Machine Girl’s set, the line outside of the venue was still inching around the building as fans filed inside. Set to start at 8pm, 100 gecs finally took the stage at around 8:30pm.

The delay could have been due to what looked to be some production equipment issues, it also could have been the amount of people collapsing in the crowd. As I waited in the photo pit for their set to begin, at least four people had to be removed from the front portion of the crowd. Bodies were packed densely and overheating more every minute. Security handed out at least 4 cases of water bottles during set change-over in an attempt to keep the fans hydrated. Nevertheless, the crowd was contagiously energetic.

As soon as Laura and Dylan hit the stage in their signature wizard garb, the crowd lost their minds. It is worth mentioning that many people in the crowd donned some sort of similar wizard-costumes. One of the photographers ignored the unspoken rule of wearing ‘show blacks’ in the photo pit and showed up wearing a full wizard outfit including the hat and cape, but I couldn’t blame them for being a fan. The stage at Aragon is so tall that I doubt anyone was distracted by their attire anyway.

I was extremely happy with their opening song choice, “Dumest Girl Alive” off 10,000 gecs, a song I’ve had on repeat since it was released. Their presence on stage was chaotic but seriously relatable. The way Laura Les thrashes around on stage is not dissimilar to the way I dance when I’m home by myself. Dylan Brady’s power stances, tie-dyed shirt, and massive wizard hat gave off the perfect amount of dgaf-vibe. Both of their vocals, even through auto-tune, sounded exactly like their records which can be challenging for electronic artists.

The set and production aspect of 100 gecs’ tour was well curated. It can be hard to pair production with such a compact live-show footprint in a way that amplifies their energy, but their team did it flawlessly. They incorporated a distorted, larger-than-life, live stream video of both the audience and both Laura and Dylan individually. The stream gave even the fans in the furthest balcony’s standing room a chance to feel up-close and personal with their performance. The LED wall positioned upstage also featured trippy visuals for each song, the most memorable being a nightmare-inducing twisted and swirling set of teeth during “I Got My Tooth Removed” and huge jumping frogs during “Frog on the Floor”.

Their set featured more from 10,000 gecs, including “757”, “Hollywood Baby”, “The Most Wanted Person in the United States”, “Billie Knows Jamie”, “Mememe”, “Doritos & Fritos”, and “One Million Dollars”. After “One Million Dollars”, they graced the crowd with a guitar solo and ambient jam, a welcomed break from the intense energy of their regular driving hyper-pop.  Besides their newest songs, they played classics like “Torture Me”, “Hey Big Man”, “Hand Crushed by a Mallet”, “Money Machine”, “Ringtone”, “800db Cloud”, and “Stupid Horse”. The duo didn’t leave us without some surprises, either, like playing an unreleased new remix version of “xXXi_wud_nvrstøp_ÜXXx”, off 1000 gecs. Laura also introduced “gecgecgec” as Wonderwall, from which she sang some lyrics toward the end of the song. The two encore songs were “gec 2 Ü” off 1000 gecs and the brain-scratching and iconic first-ever release - a single off their first EP 100 gecs called “bloodstains”.

Overall, 100 gecs is a band that defies easy categorization. Their music is chaotic, experimental, and often divisive, but it's also undeniably fun and infectious. I’ve been a huge fan of this pair for a long time and their show at Byline Bank Aragon Ballroom was not a disappointment. With their blend of hyper-pop, electronic, and experimental music, they've managed to carve out a unique niche in the music world and attract a dedicated fanbase that's always eager for what they'll come up with next.

All photos by Shaela Johnston

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Shaela Johnston

Shaela is a West-Coast born freelance photographer and writer, relatively new to Chicago as of 2021. Specializing in live music photography, Shaela can be found attending concerts several times a week when she isn't traveling or working on her Bachelor's degree. In her free time she listens to metal, hardcore, hip-hop, and likes to chill at home with her hairless cat named Soup and wife Courtney.