By David Courtright
There are no more tidy boxes in music anymore. Genres are decaying on their stalks. The blight of mainstream. People ask, “What kind of music is it?” You shrug. “Good.” Fair enough. The good thing, one may suppose, is that a band like Deerhunter can become, well, mainstream. If that still means what it used to. You are no longer fed corporate alt radio by a DJ named Bones. Your palate is all yours to color.
It was refreshing to see Deerhunter play Variety to such an enthusiastic audience. They have captured a wide swath of people, everyone from high school punksters to aging hipsters. Perhaps it’s part of the act that at least one of the band members looked really mad at all the other ones. Gives the audience a more participatory role in constructing a narrative. While Bradford Cox may be one of the stranger front men in the business today, his oddness and angularity are erased by the clarity and phrasing of his songs.
After a dark set by opener Hollow Stars, Deerhunter came out to raucous applause. They opened with “Desire Lives,” which is one of two songs on the new album by guitar player Lockett Pundt, and one of the standout tracks. Like many Deerhunter songs, it ambles slowly to a steady beat, guitar lines rising and falling along to the rhythm, building tension as it sails. From here, they craftily transitioned into a Microcastle favorite, “Never Stops.”
“Don’t Cry” bled into a truly awe-inspiring “Nothing Ever Happens.” When one thinks of Deerhunter, guitar hero isn’t necessarily the image that comes to mind. But on this song in particular, there was shreddery. The audience was elated. “He Would Have Laughed” was a nice malaise-laden interlude before the big finale.
For the last few songs, an ex-member of the band and current lead singer of Hollow Stars Colin Mee joined. The chemistry changed considerably, and by the end of it all, he was doing a shoulder stand with his legs in the air, playing guitar, and over one hundred people (including this writer) were on stage banging the hell of the drum set with Cox and drummer Moses Archuleta. Can’t say that happens every day at the Variety Playhouse.