February 2, 2011
Better than: Ice, ice baby
It was a stroke of good luck, aided with a bit of coaxing by Loft promoter Kris Youmans, that got two luminaries to agree to share the bill on Wednesday night at The Loft.
But as with so many events scheduled for this Big Week, big weather got in the way. Tiersen and crew ended up stranded in Abilene yesterday when four hours of road time gained them 20 miles of progress by mid-day.
Fortunately, Deerhoof made it in to town from Austin. And, even without Tiersen, an audience of around 100 -- diminished by the pre-announced Tiersen cancelation -- were treated to phenomenal musicianship.
The four members of Deerhoof took to an extremely spare stage just after 10, and launched into an hour-long set that pulled from a discography that is nearly 15 years deep.
Greg Saunier played with fury behind a simple drum kit with what looked like tiny drumsticks. The diminutive Satomi Matsuzaki, with her familiar Hofner violin bass (and occasional guitar), dropped in notes that provided interesting accents -- all while providing the distinctive voice that makes her band's songs so much fun. Long-time guitarist John Dieterich played a hollow-bodied twelve-string (and plenty of pedals), and second guitarist Ed Rodriguez switched between guitar and occasional bass duties.
After opening with "Dummy Discards a Heart" followed by "The Tears and Music of Love," Saunier provided a rambling welcome that was as nonlinear, pointless and somehow endearing as most songs in their set list -- and nearly as long. too. Over the course of a set that ran slightly over an hour, the band played 19 songs. And that included the occasional tuneup, including Saunier's snare.
Fans of the 'hoof know them to be one of the most quirky, fun bands you can see live. Last night was no different. There is a weird alchemy of absolutely crack musicianship combined with Satomi's childish voice and lyrics that makes for a truly unique experience. And, somehow, the density of their records doesn't get lost in the live setting. Satomi, with her odd gestures and hand signals in time to the songs, is huge fun -- especially when paired with the visual of Rodriquez and Dieterich jerk-marching around the stage, playing a kind of math-rock that challenges without pretense.
Tiersen and Deerhoof would indeed have been an amazing lineup, but Deerhoof delivered a performance that made it worth the effort to get out regardless of how cold it was.
Personal Bias: I think one of the secrets to Deerhoof's music and live performance is song length. Songs of odd musical syncopation with nonsensical lyrics just get to the point of the audience getting a handle on them before, suddenly, they are over. Nobody, including maybe the musicians themselves, gets much of a chance to get bored with what they are doing.
Random Note: After navigating the sketchy streets to get to the venue on a crap night, I still had to pay the full fare to park on a lot that was a perfect sheet of ice, and I busted my ass on the way back to the car.
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