"Where's the Lil Wayne iPod?" Bradford Cox demanded. After a botched attempt at micing someone's iPhone, an MP3 player was ferried in and "A Milli" blasted from the amplifiers. "I don't write shit, cause I ain't got time," Cox growled over Weezy's trademark flow before launching into "Calvary Scars," a track from Deerhunter's upcoming LP, Microcastle.
The Deerhunter before us, wedged in a kitschy little DIY gallery in Virginia Highlands, was a different beast than the one manifested on its first two albums. If this (free) live performance was any indication, Microcastle is also a departure from the status quo, gravitating heavily towards the melodic post-punk of Cryptograms.
One of Deerhunter's more admirable talents is their ability to keep a
foot planted on each side of the line between acidic,
spaced-out instrumentals and endlessly hummable riffs. This night was no
exception: The show was a patchwork of fuzzed-out guitars shot
skyward by sheer volume, as Cox and company marched forth bearing the mantle discarded by My
Bloody Valentine. Standbys like "Basement" and "Strange Lights" motivated the mostly mopey
crowd to shuffle their feet, spurred on by admonitions from the band to
try to look like they're having a good time. And newer material like "Never
Stops" would feel comfortable in Guided By Voices' discography, albeit
turned up 30 decibels.
The closer, which lasted close to 20 minutes, was the one flaw in an
otherwise excellent performance. Musicality was discarded as the band
opted for sheer noise. The building tension in a maelstrom of sound
bordered on cathartic for the first quarter-hour, but became
masturbatory after running long enough to see everyone mostly lose
Undaunted, as the wall of sound rose to a crescendo, Cox awkwardly
climbed atop an amp, hunched over to avoid hitting his head on the low ceiling. His gangly
limbs worked furiously as he shredded his guitar before he lept down to
add another electric wail to the tumult. Spent, victorious, he raised
his arms in triumph. For a guy who's earned a slice of infamy for his
onstage antics, Cox was genuinely tame, deadpan humor aside. But if that's
the price of Deerhunter putting on an excellent show, it's a fair trade.
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