Saturday, September 19, 2009

Deerhoof at Le Poisson Rouge

How weird and wonderful! This past Tuesday the experimental band Deerhoof played a show at Le Poisson Rouge, a Greenwich Village venue that my friend tells me was created by a Columbia graduate. And what a venue! Le Poisson Rouge seems much smaller than it actually is, providing a deceptively intimate concert gathering. According to the site it "fits 250 fully seated, 700 fully standing, or any combination," but when I walked in I swore only 400 or so would fit on the GA floor. This is, by the way, a good thing. Also props to the venue for its red lights, good quality sound, and video projections displayed on screens behind each band. And the opening band, Wildbirds and Peacedrums, was fascinating... like Bjork or Portishead, but with stranger instruments, less electronic influences, and more drums.

I first heard Deerhoof my last year of high school, and they fascinated me. Probably because something about their music frightened me to the core. Listen to the eerie "Milk Man" and especially the song "Song of Sorn" and you'll see what I mean. I'm convinced that some cords are specifically made to physically grate on your hearing and perception of beauty. Deerhoof is certainly "noise rock," and holds little in common with all other indie rock. I'm not even sure it's indie, really, since lately the definition has come to mean a quieter folk/indie pop, rather than actually referring to an independent label.

My favorite songs of theirs actually blend the strange and the virtuosic. For example, listen to 81+ from Friend Opportunity. The last 2 minutes are simply a ridiculously catchy love song. Same goes for their latest single Fresh Born, out of Offend Maggie, or Giga Dance from Milk Man (still my favorite album of theirs, for reasons I don't really understand).

This was a damn good show, and not even because they played their "hits," or because I knew most of the songs. In actuality I knew about half, but the very fact that I enjoyed the songs I didn't know prove Deerhoof to be good performers. They pulled every gag and trick in the concert-giving book: costume changes! pretentious and adorable stage banter! friend found randomly in audience to play the drums for a song! artsy video projections! synchronized dance moves! not one, but TWO encores! props, such as a tiny stuffed penguin and a glow-in-the-dark basketball! all of the band members switching instruments! Sometimes all of these would occur within a single song.

Of course, this was all made better by the fact that I was practically front-and-center, except for a row of people with SLR's and Japanese groupies obsessed with lead singer Satomi Matsuzaki. (Actually a good number of Deerhoof's songs are sung in Japanese, and Satomi arrived fresh off the boat (theoretically speaking) in San Francisco when Deerhoof was being formed).

What a show, what a show.

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