Deerhunter, Times New Viking, Nite Jewel
December 1, 2008
Better than: Going to Vietnam, only to return with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (Get it, movie buffs?)
Deerhunter's Bradford Cox, with bells on. (Mikey Harris)
With the bitter cold, little advertising and a post-holiday Monday for a booking date, the odds were stacked against this show before it even began.
But by the closing of Deerhunter's final song at last night's Loft performance, it's hard to remember these were ever even factors to consider.
As a few dozen stood with arms crossed in front of the stage, Los Angeles-based Nite Jewel used her first couple of songs to iron out some soundboard issues. But, after tinkering with wires and knobs, the pint-sized Ramona Gonzalez and her equally tiny band mate trudged on with their electronic arsenal--which included an iPod, a Casio keyboard, and a sampler. Her songs varied from the futuristic and Kraftwerk-esque, like "Artificial Intelligence," to the spunky and echo-heavy, like "Heart Won't Start". And if Vicki, the adorable robot from the 80's TV show Small Wonder, released her own version of Madonna's 1983 debut album, it'd sound a lot like Nite Jewel's performance of "Full House".
But the crowd didn't sign up to hear cutesy android-pop. They clearly wanted the next two bands, which was rather unfortunate; Nite Jewel had an intriguing sound that could've won more appreciation if opening for a different band.
Times New Viking, a noisy lo-fi trio from Ohio, would begin with a bang, continue with a bang, and end with a bang. There would be no rising action or denouement; just a series of back-to-back climaxes testing the limits of The Loft's sound system. And yet, as if his ruckus wasn't loud enough on the opening song "Teen Drama," drummer Adam Elliot yanked his vocal microphone down from the stand, and held it to the crash cymbal as he repeatedly pounded the sin out of it.
Throughout the set, Elliot was gracious enough to inform the audience which songs were and were not about drugs. And the respective synth and guitar wails of Beth Murphy and Jared Phillips reached their greatest levels in "Skull Versus Wizard", as Elliot sang with the microphone literally inside his mouth while drumming. If necessary, Times New Viking could've headlined this tour on their own; last night proved they certainly had the chops.
Finally, with an almost palpable anxiousness in the air, the much-anticipated headline act, Deerhunter, took the stage. And guitarist and lead vocalist Bradford Cox was welcomed as a god as he walked onto The Loft's stage--a stark polarization from his appearance. With skinny jeans somehow appearing baggy on his lengthy, skeletal frame, it's easy to imagine him once as the butt of high school teasing. But once Cox stomped on his ever-present delay pedal, the ambient cacophony muffled any remarks on his looks.
A good portion of the audience squealed and whooped along as they recognized upcoming songs. On "Octet," a crowd favorite, many fans chanted along, "I was the corpse that spiraled out!" as drummer Moses Archuleta delivered a steady gallop on the high hat.
Later, by the close of the set, Deerhunter must've employed every pedal, effect and filter in their vast collection as Cox hammered upon his trusty glockenspiel. The applauding crowd was rewarded for its loyalty with an amazing encore, too, featuring "Agoraphobia," one of the flagship songs on Deerhunter's new album Microcastle.
But the final song of the night was "Twilight at Carbon Lake," which guaranteed a little trauma for every eardrum in the venue. And, for the big finale, the song's harmonies devolved into visceral mayhem. Guitars were deliberately thrown out of tune, buttons were mashed on laptops, and Cox did his best Townshend impression by shoving his glockenspiel to the floor.
Still, bassist Josh Fauver trumped the rest of the band by handing his instrument down to an audience member, mouthing the words, "Here: You play this!" Then Fauver walked away to tweak on the bass's effects while the lucky teenager in the crowd plucked nonsense up and down the strings. (After the show, Fauver admitted, "We really hate playing that song. By the end, we're sick of it, and that's just what happens.")
Save the incredible grand finale, it's difficult to classify Deerhunter as 'noise-rock' like many do. Sure, they're loud--they're very, very loud.
But it's not just offensive 'noise' that the act gave 300-or-so fans last night in downtown Dallas. Bradford Cox and his cohorts placed energy with virtuosity, and heavy rhythms atop haunting echoes. In a venue as intimate as The Loft, the huge wall of sound produced by Deerhunter was deafening--but definitely not noise. --Mikey Harris
Random Note: Nite Jewel performed wearing only black leggings and a giant flannel shirt... Is that supposed to be sexy? (Because it kind of was.)