Goddamn! Deerhunter turns up for live shows! It was literally the exact opposite of what I thought I would be witnessing and I have never been more pleased with a show simply because I was expecting drone or soft quiet music sometimes broken up by Bradford Cox being hilarious, never a show where I would be head banging more than I had all semester. For God’s sake, I had to take my glasses off for fear of them flipping onto stage from how hard I was contorting my neck in an attempt to move my body.
I started the night waiting in line to get in, in the longest line I had ever seen at the 40 Watt… I even showed up to the show late. Well, I showed up right when it was set to start, the doors were supposed to open at 9 and I got there at 10 and I ended up waiting in line for 45 minutes. Online, it was said that the show was going to go until 2 a.m. and I could not figure out how that was going to happen, but once I waited in line for that long and got inside and waited a little longer it started to make sense.
The whole show started with Elf Power, a staple of the Athens music scene that had also opened for Neutral Milk Hotel earlier in the semester. They were a good solid band full of rock influences that I would compare mostly to a rockier version of Joy Division. There songs were good; they played some apparent fan favorites and basically did the job of an opener. I was ready for what ever Deerhunter was going to throw my way even if it meant standing still droning out.
Deerhunter though, immediately started playing, with little chitchat from Bradford, a development I did not expect. When I caught a glimpse of Atlas Sound at Pitchfork two years ago, all he was doing was talking, and being hilarious. So most of the reason I bought a ticket to this show was to see what funny things he would talk about this time. He did nothing of the sort and led his band through a marathon, 2 hour and 15 minute jam session.
I felt like they played about 10 songs all night but they must have played more, they played so long. Every time they did play a song I recognized though, it tugged my already huge smile a little wider across my face. Within the first five songs they seemed to have already played all the songs I anticipated recognized but that didn’t matter, I felt like a true fan singing along trying to get Bradford to acknowledge me. The best song though was easily the one song Bradford did not get the honor of singing on. “Desire Lines” rocked hard. I honestly was prepared to start moshing that’s how intense it got. They just built the song on top of itself until it finally was shaking the foundations of the building with how loud everything was and how hard everyone of the band was playing their instruments.
Then from that song on, they kept that intensity up and every time they started a new song they would play the basis of it and then just rock out. Bradford it turns out is actually a pretty good guitarist and showed his skill off all night but the rest of the band too was skilled at keeping a jam out song going. The bass player was so talented, keeping even time and steering the ship along with the drummer who may have been keeping even better time. At one point I did actually drone out, but not in the normal droney way that I am accustomed to. It got so vigorous I started closing my eyes and kept shaking my head making sure I was moving my body to the beat and rhythm of the song. Bright lights started flashing behind my eyelids and my whole head became really heavy and I started to trip out a bit from how intense the music got. I guess in all definition of what drone is, they did stick to drone, just not as soft and laid back as I am used to. The repetition of the bass and drums and guitar collaborating together into a never ending jam really ended up doing the same thing that seeing Andy Stott did, just louder.
I was rudely interrupted by the second “fight” of the night though and it brought me quickly down to earth. Earlier in the night some old hipster had gotten mad at a young hipster for trying to push his way through to a closer spot up front. The old hipster got incredibly mad over a little shove and the clear hypocrisy of the situation made the young hipster and me mad. If that old hipster was going to tell me he had never shoved his way through at a show then I’ll be damned. Well, about half way through the show, two old hipsters got into it and one came flying from the right side knocking people down. It was so annoying seeing these adults getting mad while such good music was going on but I was able to just step over the guy and keep jamming.
Going back and listening to Hacyon Digest, I am starting to realize there actually is a lot of potential for Deerhunter to have a fairly rocking show. Yes some songs can be very dronesque and seem to drag, but plenty of tracks are rock based and leave open plenty of potential to just jam out and solo until Bradford’s heart is content, because that is what they really did. They played the basis of what their songs normally sound like and concocted a nice progression for Bradford and the band to just wail over on their given instruments.
Throughout all their jamming, Bradford hardly said a word. He maybe spoke three times and they were all to just say thank you. I couldn’t really figure it out and was honestly getting a little sad we would not hear from my newfound idol. But then, after they left the stage and returned for their encore, he grabbed a mike and did not stop talking and I finally got my wish. He first told us a lot of his family was there and he told his aunt happy birthday. Then he got into his wisdom though, calling the crowd juniper berries and thanking everyone there that helped him get the show going. He ended his spiel with a “let the faith live” or something patriotic like that and proceeded to go into a 15-minute epic jam out with the violin player from Elfpower. The true power of chaotic music was achieved in that jam and the awesome thing was, it was all improvised. I never thought I would say this but Bradford Cox showed me a new way to rock out and drone out at the same time and he is my new hero.