Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Review: Deerhunter @ Webster Hall

Deerhunter @ Webster Hall - August 22, 2011

"I just want it to be like an assault live, and softer on records,"

-Jay Reatard

As you probably know, we generally don’t cover acts here that are a bit newer to the scene. There is no concrete rule as to who we cover on the blog, such as their tenure in the music industry, how many records they’ve released, etc. But you’re not going to visit this site one day and see coverage of last night’s tUnE-yArDs show (no offense, we love tUnE-yArDs… as aggravating as it is to type the name). A lot of this has to due with the fact that many of the contributors to Fucking Nostalgic (myself included) are in bands trying to make it themselves, and would it really make sense for us to be promoting bands that aren’t us? It’s a question I had to ask myself when I had the idea to start a music blog and I ultimately decided that if you want to read about the latest music going on these days, there’s no shortage of websites you can visit for that.

That being said, there is one thing we do consider when deciding on what artists we’re going to cover: their ability to stand the test of time. There marks a turning point in a band’s career where it has become obvious they are on the cusp of creating a legacy. And not just a legacy, but a distinct sound that is bound to be influential 10, 15--20 years down the line. Last night I saw Atlanta’s Deerhunter for the third time and it became clear to me that not only have they reached that point (the release of last year’s Halcyon Digest easily cemented their place in indie music history), but they’ve become this sort of unstoppable presence in music, mostly attributed to the fact that Bradford Cox is seemingly incapable of writing a bad song. It’s been said of Guided By Voices’ Robert Pollard that he could write five songs on the toilet and three of them would be good. Cox could write twenty, call it an Atlas Sound album and get a 9.4 on Pitchfork.

But getting back to Deerhunter’s performance last night, it was a startling and surreal moment to witness the band enter the stage and launch into the somber “Basement Scene” before Cox even made his appearance. And when he did make his way onstage by way of being thrown a microphone from his roadie, it was even more startling that the Bradford Cox I remembered from just a few months ago was sporting a new pompadour haircut and a white polka-dot button-down shirt. As he paced around the stage during the opening song, crouching to croon for the crowd in front, Cox reminded me nothing short of a young David Bowie--except whereas many of Bowie’s styles were grounded in makeup and costume, Cox’s stage presence comes off as very organic, if not only for the fact that there is nothing theatrical about his appearance.

Diving into Digest’s standout track “Desire Lines,” guitarist Lockett Pundt took lead duties on the song he co-wrote, and the band set the stage for the rest of their set by extending the song’s ending into an ambient pollution of noise, held together almost entirely by drummer Moses Archuleta and bassist Josh Fauver. But it wasn’t the only song they radically extended; “Don’t Cry,” “Little Kids,” and “He Would Have Laughed” (which they closed the show with) all received lengthy jam sessions. What’s most shocking about an act that essentially began as a punk band, is their ability to jam on repetitious chord progressions without ever coming across as pretentious, or even worse, boring.

Though the standout moment of the performance was when they launched into Microcastle’s “Nothing Ever Happened” halfway through the set and not only extended on the song’s original ending, but had Cox improvising lyrics singing Patti Smith's "Horses" over the repetitious bass line that has since become so memorable. Tying the lyrics into the moment when the bass line ultimately changes for the song’s conclusion made for a truly cathartic moment, where the crowd responded with overwhelming appreciation. Surveying the venue several times throughout the show, it was one of many moments that the audience seemed to be not only truly captivated with what they were witnessing onstage, but also just in complete relief with even the most nominal of chord changes.

The Jay Reatard quote on top is up there for a reason. Jay collaborated with Deerhunter before his untimely passing (he covered “Flourescent Grey,” they covered “Oh, It’s Such A Shame”) and “He Would Have Laughed” was written as a tribute to Reatard, recorded soley by Cox as the closing song to Halcyon Digest. But it’s not just that. The two artists shared a similar aesthetic when it came to recording music and performing it live. Records are a very permanent form of artistic expression; an album is made and released to its audience, and its place in history becomes very finite. A live performance is an interpretation of an artist’s work, and the possibilities of what that artist will do with it are completely endless. The most exciting live bands are the ones who recognize the need to create a different experience from what their fans would expect--because otherwise, why not just sit at home and spin the record around? Deerhunter’s live show over the years has become “an assault,” and few bands today have achieved the ability to shock their audience with such a divergent, yet faithful interpretation of their music as they did last night. The very concept that a young band like Deerhunter exists and continues to release one classic record after another continues to perplex me.

I didn’t take photos of last night’s show (aside from the one I snapped above with my iPhone), just like I didn’t take photos of them the last two times I caught them live. Deerhunter is the one band I love to be completely focused on live and not have any distractions around me. If you didn’t catch them last night, tickets are still on sale for their show tonight at Webster Hall.

Deerhunter - Webster Hall - August 22, 2011
Basement Scene 
Desire Lines
Hazel St.
Don't Cry
Little Kids
Memory Boy
Nothing Ever Happened
Spring Hall Convert
Cover Me (Slowly)
Green Fuzz  (by The Cramps)

He Would Have Laughed


  1. Future Nostalgia. Amazing show.

  2. just wanted to let you know Brad wasn't improvising lyrics on Nothing Ever Happened, he was covering Patti Smith's Horses

  3. I think you are missing "Never Stops" which was played somewhere around 5 or 6...