“Youth Code just wrecked shop,” is how Daveed Diggs opened Clipping’s set tonight at The Local 662 in St. Petersburg, Florida, “but you were outside trying to get a selfie with me — that’s fucked up.”
The statement from the 34-year-old star of hit Broadway production Hamilton was delivered a bit tongue-in-cheek, but there was plenty of odd truth in it, too. Youth Code, a Los Angeles-based duo made up of Sara Taylor and Ryan William George, played the middle set directly after St. Pete’s own Reality Asylum meaning the crowd — many who likely never would’ve been there had it not been for Diggs' Tony Award winning portrayal of Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson — would be forced to take in their industrial, deeply rhythmic hardcore whether they liked it or not.
Many opted to enjoy their drinks outside, but those who opened up to Youth Code’s more avant-garde sound (although Clipping’s aesthetic isn’t exactly a smooth pill to swallow either) allowed themselves to be a part of a bill that epitomizes exactly why we should be going to more shows where we don’t quite get all the music lined up. Taylor is a throat singer, meaning songs like “Consuming Guilt” and “Carried Mask” will hurt your throat if you try to sing along. Her lyrics take a glossy yet visceral look at the world, and her delivery is just as intriguing. George mans the board (“the synth wizard,” is how Taylor describes him”) and delivers chest-rattling, thrashing, dark electro.
Youth Code is more for peeps who enjoy coming out of The Castle at 3 a.m. than people who read Playbills while soaking in a bath bomb.
The beauty of Tuesday night, however, is how both those kinds of people came together in one sweaty room. There were dad hats in the crowd. There were also actual dads (and moms) accompanying kids to the show (“if you’re old enough to drink, then take care of your bartenders,” Diggs said at one point). There were club kids, and also kids who eat club sandwiches at actual country clubs. Most surprising of all, however, was how these kids knew so many of the lyrics despite Clipping’s first release, 2012’s dba118 EP, coming out a good two years before Hamilton was even a blip on the general public’s radar. They paid close attention to William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes sampling live sounds and vocals. They mostly kept up with Diggs’s quick delivery and they bounced (or wriggled) up and down all night, pretty much eclipsing the energy Clipping brought themselves.
Although Diggs’s lyric sheet undoubtedly packs more punch than, say, Drake, he is still no prophet on the mic. Clipping’s approach is more of an experimental one, and they manage to bridge the gap between pop music and, well, weird music perfectly. The group is brave. They’re clearly on the road to please no one but themselves — and that’s how it should be. At the end of the day, Diggs is going to fall prey to pop culture’s obsession with an an actor who raps (or a rapper who acts), but he — along with Hutson and Snipes — are 100-percent committed to being artists. Clipping fans seem to be artists, too, and they also seem to give no fucks about pleasing anybody else by pretending to enjoy something they don’t. Because he’s in Hamilton, Diggs and Clipping will be victim to the phenomenon of the Broadway production, but that doesn’t make the music they make (or their fans’ energy) any less phenomenal either.