Concert Review: Deerhoof @ Union Transfer (April 15, 2013)

Image courtesy of Four Paws
Image courtesy of Four Paws

By Kirsten Becker

Deerhoof played the last show of their tour right here in Philadelphia at the Union Transfer. Known for their bombastic, jarring, noisy sound, Deerhoof performed a very distinct set, living up to the playful and weird image they’ve created for themselves over the course of their 19 years as a band.

Around 10 pm, the members of Deerhoof descended upon the stage, with all four lining up at the forefront. This setup was very interesting and served as a reminder that no one member was the leader, each instrumentalist worked with each other and off each other to create the insanity that would ensue. At various points during the show there were expertly executed solos and on-the-spot improv interludes. To me as a listener, their techniques and approach to sound was vastly different than the traditional live performances that I have seen in the past from other bands. They had no problem changing up the tempo and the rhythm at any point in their songs, making the show very un­danceable, but all-the-more entertaining and captivating to watch.

Early on in their set, guitarist Ed Rodriguez broke a string on the guitar during “I Did Crimes For You.” This prompted drummer Greg Saunier to get on the mic and completely disorient the audience until the repairs were done. His long, drawn-out, disjointed speech provided a comedic break between the songs. He would continue to confuse and entertain the audience throughout the night, both on the mic and behind the drum set.

Anyone who was unfamiliar with Deerhoof’s work before the show may have thought their performance was noisy and underprepared. That is exactly what this band goes for, a sound that sounds like pieces are missing, but at the same time sounding incredibly thought-out and put together. The harsh and percussive techniques of the instrumentalists were contrasted by Satomi Matsuzaki’s high pitched, almost child­like voice. She never talked once between songs, which is strange for a lead singer. This was yet another reminder that, even though she was the vocalist for the band, she wasn’t the only voice on stage. Deerhoof has cultivated a “team effort” ideal of sorts, which I find refreshing.

No new songs off of their latest release, “Breakup Song” were played until the very end of the set, when they played highlights off the album, including “Fete d’Adieu,” “Flower,” and almost-­title-­track “Breakup Songs.” They played to a raucous crowd during their encore, and were very gracious for the overwhelming applause they received. After the encore, cheering still continued, in hopes of a second encore.

Deerhoof provided me with a unique live experience and a new perspective on music itself. I highly suggest checking out “Breakup Song”– it is one of my favorite albums of 2012.

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