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Friday, October 19, 2007

CMJ Report: Deerhunter

No photos from Deerhunter last night. My camera died in the middle of Dan Deacon, blah. But I just bought a new one today, so the visual side of things here should be improving very soon.

This was my second time seeing Deerhunter live and they are definitely growing into their sound. The songs were full of layers, distortion, echo and meticulously layered vocals, enhanced by lead singer Bradford Cox's effects processor. The set was mesmerizing. They kicked things off with an amazing new song, then fleshed things out, highlighted by many of the bands greatest tracks - 'Cryptograms', 'Hazel St.', 'Spring Hall Convert' and 'Wash Off'. But the standout for me was the electric-fused rendition of 'Strange Lights'. This bittersweet song found a whole new level of urgency in the Bowery Ballroom set.

Outside of the music, things were sketchy. The encore found Bradford wining away in a desperate rant, repeating phrases like "I miss my family!" "I miss 1997!" It got sad. Especially when some guy tried to leave to take a piss and Bradford shouted after him, "Where do you think you're going?!" When he explained himself, Bradford drank half a bottle of water and demanded that the guy take a piss into the empty half. Once the next song got underway, the guy snuck out unnoticed by crazy Bradford. Then Bradford went into a monologue about how New York sucks because he can't smoke onstage. After a long explanation of his nicotine addiction, he finally lit up. No cops showed up. No one hauled him off the stage.

It was clear Bradford's bandmates were uneasy - the final moment of the show had one of the guys unplugging his microphone so he couldn't talk anymore. This was the ultimate in ironic live sets - the music is flawless, but the band seem to be held together by a weakening thread.

Antics aside, Deerhunter are a great live band. See them soon, before they crumble under their own staged drama.

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