Article by Jhoni Jackson; photos by Matt Smith
Scouring downtown for parking on a Saturday night when there’s a sold out show is the pits. You want me to pay $15? To park my car four blocks away from the venue? Really? After circling a crowded $5 lot a dizzying number of times, I gave up. My friend and I settled for a middle-ground price, and forked over $10 at a deck with a few tiny, but available, parking spots. I should have taken Marta, but that’s a trying effort of a different variety altogether.
So I was late. And I missed the beginning of The Strange Boys, who I’d wanted badly to see again since being introduced to their jangly, country-tinged fuzz-rock at Austin City Limits Festival in 2008. Bummer, but I caught the last three tunes. They stood oddly close together for their set, and the Tabernacle’s wide stage seemed to engulf them. The young band appeared pre-pubescent from the back of the floor crowd as a result. The chatter from Spoon fans almost swallowed their sound, too. The four-piece was definitely jamming out and sticking to mostly upbeat songs, but it may have been difficult for a Strange Boys first-timer to join their groove – the backup vocals, although grouped, were jarringly off-kilter. Second bummer, but the last one of the night.
Deerhunter’s lead singer, Bradford Cox, kept home in mind throughout their set, announcing the band as Marietta, Ga. natives. They touched on various releases, but mostly focused on 2008’s Microcastle with gems like “Never Stops,” “Nothing Ever Happened” and “Little Kids.”
The latter, Cox expressed, was about drunk youths setting an old man aflame. He dedicated it to his mother, who waved excitedly from the balcony near where I sat. From above, devoted fans were easily spotted amongst the packed floor – a few heads bobbing along knowingly, and one guy spinning an open umbrella at full speed.
Deerhunter even played Microcastle’s title track, where Cox noted his mother again. She waved again when he shouted, “I can hear you Mom!” Cox’s dragged out vocals rang like echoing bells against the church-turned-venue’s walls. The sound sprinkled goose bumps on my skin, and the crowd stood eerily still. It was the night’s most beautiful, ambient moment. His mother had to have been overcome with pride.
Indie giants though they might be, Spoon’s performance mirrored the more low-key performance I saw at Variety Playhouse around 2005 almost identically, aside from two more albums-worth of material to work with. And that’s not criticism, because the crowd was equally eager to watch and just as energized. The catchiness of Spoon’s repetitive guitar riffs and matching drumming have a certain snappy swagger, and virtually everyone was dancing.
Deerhunter’s Cox emerged from backstage to lend a strum on “Who Makes Your Money.” The band’s recent release, Transference, was easily the main attraction, but Spoon thanked their long-term fans by playing tried-and-true tracks like “I Turn My Camera On” (Gimme Fiction, 2005) and even “Everything Hits at Once” (Girls Can Tell, 2001).
My friend and I maneuvered close to the front, an undertaking I haven’t tackled in years, to get in the middle of the dancing crowd. Side note: If you say, “I lost my friends, I think they’re up here!” with a pout, people are more likely to give you passage.