University of Wisconsin-Madison seniors Deryk G and Godly the Ruler held a concert at Rathskeller for a small but intimate crowd on the Friday before Halloween. Despite the stark contrast between Deryk G’s softer indie and Godly’s bombastic rap, the festive audience soaked up every second.
The show got going well after it’s alleged 9 p.m. start time, and the tight-knit crowd was beyond ready by the time Deryk G finally took the stage. This is a classic performance tactic, where the artist lets the audience stew in their own anticipation. Whether or not Deryk did this intentionally is debatable, but it’s also besides the point, as it produced the same effect — a euphoric, energetic crowd.
With much of the crowd in costume and all of the crowd excited about Halloweekend, Deryk G knew he would have to match that energy. And match it he did, coming on stage dressed as David Byrne from the Talking Heads movie “Stop Making Sense” and leading with a cover of “Psycho Killer.” As far as performance tactics go, this was a great one. It got the audience dancing and fired up early.
Deryk G’s music is deceptively intricate. Initially, it seems like your average indie rock and not much else. But if you listen closer, his songs are very musically layered and much more sonically dense than a typical lo-fi indie rocker. With six musicians on stage, Deryk was able to capture this quality with extra instruments like synths and saxophones.
Towards the end of his setlist, Deryk G pulled out his last Halloween surprise, changing into a Freddie Mercury outfit and playing “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen. “I wanted to be my musical idols for Halloween,” Deryk explained.
Covering those two songs was another good choice by Deryk. As much as the audience enjoyed his originals, he’s still an underground act and the audience doesn’t know all of his songs by heart. “Psycho Killer” and “Another One Bites the Dust” boosted the crowd’s energy. They were also very solid covers, more so because Deryk clearly tried to take on the persona of each singer with his performance.
Deryk G closed his set with “Damien,” his catchiest and most recent song. He said it was one of his personal favorites and the ensuing performance backed that up. The whole band oozed musical joy while playing the song, and I’ve still got the infectious chorus in my head.
Godly the Ruler came on next after a short intermission, donning a black suit and a ski-mask. While Godly set up his stage, he blasted a song by the rapper JPEGMAFIA. With his unapologetic flow and use of heavy, dissonant sounds, Godly sounds a bit like JPEGMAFIA himself.
Part of what makes Godly so entertaining is that he’s a walking contradiction from his music. Talking to him off-stage, he’s incredibly humble and soft-spoken. Nothing about his demeanor suggests that he makes the loud, aggressive music he is known for.
But when Godly gets on stage, he completely transforms. His contemporary rap takes inspiration from many places, but most notably drill and experimental trap. Songs like “Off with Your Head” are great bass-heavy party-starters that got even the Rathskeller crowd of no more than 60 people to mosh.
Both Deryk and Godly constantly encouraged the audience to sing along, dance more and mosh harder. Both performers fed off their respective audiences and you could tell it was affecting their moods. At one point, when people weren’t moving around enough, Godly said “if you’re standing with your arms crossed, you look like the feds.”
Without a live band to perform with him, Godly couldn’t rely on the collective musical energy that comes from having bandmates on stage like Deryk could. Godly had to bring his own excitement, a feat he was able to pull off. For some songs, he taught the audience the hook beforehand so they could shout along with him. He encouraged the audience to mosh whenever applicable, and I was legitimately surprised by how actively people were moshing, seemingly forgetting they were in the restaurant of a student union.
The show came to a somewhat abrupt end when a Rathskeller staff member informed Godly that he only had time for one more song. Godly’s visible disappointment underscored how lively and enjoyable the night had been. I will admit, I was skeptical of the kind of musical environment Memorial Union and two college seniors could create, but I was dead wrong. There was so much joy in the performance, from the artists themselves to the audience eager to watch their peers put their talent on display. Rathskeller is a perfect venue for a local artist to perform for a small but devoted crowd.