Live Review: Deerhoof - The Echoplex - Los Angeles, CA
Thu, 20 Nov 2008 15:03:44
In a musical society over saturated with acts in even the most specific genre niches, sonic individuality has become a scarce commodity. These days a vast majority of bands can be boiled down to a simple equation: X band's attitude + Y band's melodies = new band Z—often with a plus or minus "electro-sounding" peppered in for good measure. Despite the homogenous atmosphere that has swelled up around them, Deerhoof has perennially managed to transcend comparison and even imitation through constant aural evolution. For over ten years now, the lauded indie outfit have epitomized the dangers in the classic question, "What do they sound like?" This past weekend, the distinctive four-piece reminded a packed audience at Los Angeles's Echoplex that their music is not only one-of-a-kind, it's down right elating.
The show marked the second of two bookending Los Angeles performances on the band's tour in support of Offend Maggie. While the four-piece delivered a superb set a few months ago at the Avalon in Hollywood, the cozier Silverlake venue seemed far more appropriate to house the band's idiosyncratic sound. Their set was loaded with off-kilter pop gems that spanned over a healthy portion of their catalogue. On "+81" lead singer Satomi Matsuzaki's playful lilt bubbled over the songs kick driven swagger, faultlessly capturing the quirks that have made her such an endearing vocal presence. In perfect contrast, Greg Saunier's bombastically schizophrenic percussion held the group together, even as it jubilantly threatened to launch itself off the rails. On the classic track "Milk Man," he frantically flung himself against clashing syncopations, producing a frenetic energy that perched on the edge of chaos but never missed a beat.
In our recent interview with John Dieterich, the guitarist talked in depth about the physiology of writing and playing in Deerhoof. Seeing him pull off his fretboard wearing melodies solidified his musings. He subconsciously mouthed the earmarked sounds that sprung from his amp, while his entire body resonated with his eccentric but ultimately enthralling riffs. Even more entertaining than his individual performance was his pairing with Deerhoof's newest member, guitarist Ed Rodriguez. John and Ed have a history of playing together that stretches back past the formers induction into the band around a decade ago, and their perfectly in-tune performance reflected the companionship and understanding that only time can foster in multiple musicians. Playing on identical guitars, their tones hemmed together as they strung lead and backup parts between each other, resulting in a unified sound that took a vigilant eye to separate and attribute to either individual. On a standout performance of "Perfect Me," the two formed a formidable wall-of-sound on the song's chord-driven interludes, adding a riveting and dynamic ebb and flow that had been unknowingly absent at shows before Ed's arrival.
Cuts off their latest album, Offend Maggie, sounded particularly polished and benefited from the record's live band approach. "Buck and Judy" captured their darker side as it stomped along to Matsuzaki's booming bass, while "My Purple Past" delicately mournful verse erupted into a well-choreographed assault of crashing cymbals and buzzing chords. The sharpened hooks of "Chandelier Spotlight" cut clean through the set as the band adeptly navigated its off-beat melodies, reinforcing their musical dexterity by turning the subdued number into an undeniable highlight. After a short break, Deerhoof reemerged with Matsuzaki sporting a tiger mask that could have been stolen from some high school's poor mascot. Waving the mask in an enthusiastic cheer routine, she bounded across the stage on the encore song, "Basket Ball Get Your Groove Back," even climbing on the stage barrier with mic and decapitated tiger head in hand to chant the song's infectiously silly lyrics. "Thank you for having us twice," she humbly bid to the crowd. An enthusiastic cheer rose from a grateful crowd well aware that there's no substitute for Deerhoof.