Deerhoof – Wednesday July 1st @ ScalaPosted: 02/07/2009
There’s indie gigs, comprised of tepid telecaster wielding fops, wistfully gazing over their audience with mock sentiment, casually flicking the well-groomed fringes from their faces. You sit through one after another formulaic and dreary cliché of a song while some feckless dolt essentially rapes you from behind with his jeans on. Watch the minutes slowly tick towards the 11 o’clock curfew and think, please finish now, I’m bored and I want to go home. Then you have Deerhoof gigs.
For the uninitiated, Deerhoof aren’t so much a band of human beings, but rather a group of robot/alien mutants from the far reaches of space. Disguised as humans who just happened to be passing Earth and thought they’d stop by for a jam. Thank Xenu for Deerhoof.
Standing completely still, silent, Deerhoof begin with ‘Chatterboxes’. Fixed stares, the bass heralds the beginning of ‘Flower’, the band so at ease with this song that they toy with its structure, a recipe that’ll be common throughout their set. Next is ‘Blue Cash’, and it’s a twee, sedate beginning before things begin to get abstract.
The next three songs come from their latest, Offend Maggie. ‘Buck and Judy’, ‘Offend Maggie’ and ‘Snoopy Waves’ find the crowd beginning to shuck and jive in an awkward manner that the tricky time patterns determine. ‘Spirit Ditties of No Tone’ stirs the audience to idiotic grinning while Satomi Matsuzaki chirps, “Bless spirit ditties of no tone/ Inspirations/ Unsensations/ Modulate more silence”. It’s too enchanting not to smile like an idiot.
When she’s not parading around the stage like a slightly odd gym teacher – whistle blowing, shorts and miniature shoes – Satomi’s an incredibly masterful bass player. The pounding chords of ‘Giga Dance’, darker live, momentarily replace the charm she exudes. Following track, ‘Panda Panda Panda’ finds Satomi, relieved of her bass duties, bopping around the stage snipping mimed scissors through the air and mimicking glasses and panda ears.
We’re treated to a range of favourites: ‘The Great Car Tomb’, ‘Twin Killers’ and ‘+81’ played faster than usual. ‘Basket Ball Get Your Groove Back’ turns the venue into a weird UV indie rave. The sound is all at once beguiling, abrasive and raucous, with spasmodic drums thrown in to shake things up. The reason we’re here.
Guitarist John Dieterich sings ‘Pinhead’ by the Ramones. Satomi takes to the drums while drummer Greg Saunier sings ‘Going up to the Country’ by Canned Heat. The latter demonstrating his ease with not only drums, but guitar. Elsewhere, Saunier doesn’t necessarily play drums, but seizures with uncontrollable frenzy. Unhinged, he’s more Animal than Keith Moon, slowly working his way through a stack of drumsticks strewn across the floor, weights preventing his kit from sliding forward, such is the ferocity of his playing.
John gurns, a plectrum between his lips throughout the show, bending double and awkwardly ambling around like a lost dinosaur trapped inside a tight fitting body suit. At one point the entire band mimick in slow motion, easing around the stage, lying down, utilizing every inch of space. Dieterich, pushes his guitar deep into recesses of the stage atop a discarded chair. Satomi and second guitarist, Ed Rodriguez placing their instruments above their heads, towards the monitors, speaker stacks and ceiling; anywhere they might attain some new level of post-track feedback.
Shattering and utterly compelling, it works the audience into a hysteria that warrants two encores. It’s not just great music, but an entertaining and cathartic experience throughout. A perfect break from the often too characterless dirges that gigs can be.
(Video courtesy of Paul)