Thursday, August 11, 2011
Deerhunter: Observation No. Two
(picture above courtesy of Stereogum)
Who: Deerhunter/Dunes/David Scott Stone
Where: The Wiltern
When: August 9th, 2011
Another year, another joyous opportunity to see one of my favorite bands play, Deerhunter. Going in, there were two big differences between this appearance of the gentlemen four and that of last year. In early 2010, the great Halcyon Digest had not yet been released. Also, instead of an intimate setting via the Glass House, I was presented with the very spacious venue of The Wiltern. One of the two proved to be a welcome change. The other...maybe not so much. You see, I personally have no problem with The Wiltern. I've seen some extremely high quality gigs in this place before, not to mention two of the best Opeth shows I've yet to see (I've seen five altogether). However, after witnessing Deerhunter's performance Tuesday evening, it's become clear to me that some bands sound better here than others. Fortunately, it was nothing so major as to topple my positive remembrance of the night, but enough to cause some grumblings.
First blood was drawn by an electronic duo (whose identity was unknown to me at the time), led by David Scott Stone. I learned that he was part of LCD Soundsystem during live shows. Not bad. The music was quite interesting because of how it was one continuous song that lasted for at least 25 minutes I'd say, possibly longer. David was working a massive sound board/device with wires being rearranged and plugged in throughout the performance, while his female partner manned a synthesizer. It was very danceable music and certainly held my attention. Kind of a strange addition to the bill, but a welcome one.
Next up was the band Dunes. They seemed to fit in the shoegaze/dream pop niche and they did a pretty good job of it. It was my first time hearing them and though the set started off a little slow, the last 2 or 3 songs were the best. Also, I'm not sure if it was just me but the guitars were not as prominent as they should have been. Out of all the instruments, guitars MUST be loud. I want to hear the riffs, the melodies, the fuzz, etc. Although at the time I couldn't have guessed, it foreshadowed (slightly) the issues that would plague the headliners themselves.
Deerhunter dived into their set with the expected "Earthquake". This is one of my favorites off of Halcyon Digest and this was a fine rendition. That beautiful guitar crescendo that appears and then fades back to the simple acoustic plucks, backed by the drum-beat-in-reverse and Cox's hazy vocals...a perfect opening. The muzaks from Deerhunter kept on coming for a good hour and a half. Of course, a good chunk was played from the recent album, such as "Don't Cry", "Revival", "Desire Lines" and the incredible show closer "He Would Have Laughed", although the absence of "Helicopter" was tragic to be sure. There were also a ton of older songs (including songs I'm not familiar with from the first two albums), and even a hefty encore of cover songs. It's great when a band decides not to limit themselves to just newer material. They have to know that for every new fan in the audience, there's a fan dying to her older stuff too. They certainly didn't disappoint on that side of things. Other standouts for me were "Nothing Ever Happened", "Little Kids", and the beautiful "Agoraphobia". Not to mention all of the extended versions for some of their songs were so intense and heightened the suspense of feeling that release. Fantastic! So far, it must appear that everything went along swimmingly, right? Unfortunately...
As I alluded to earlier, either someone did a poor job of setting up the guitar volume that night, since a good chunk of their material (i.e. the riffs not being very pronounced) didn't hit me as I felt it should have, or perhaps The Wiltern is too large a place and has way too shoddy acoustics to do justice to bands that are heavy on noise and distortion with their guitar work. There was certainly nothing amiss with the rest of the instruments, or vocals. But then, when I witnessed Opeth play their two hour show last year, there weren't any problems that I remember. Anyway, the point being that largely my reason for ultimately favoring my first experience with Deerhunter at the Glass House is for said guitar malfunctions.
Sound shortcomings aside, it's a testament to the great band that Deerhunter is that I was able to push the problems out of the picture and really just have a great time. There were quite a few moments which blew me away and will forever be stored up in this memory of mine. To this I say, bless you, Deerhunter! I will gladly watch you perform again. But maybe pick a smaller venue next time, eh?