As I walked into Richards last night, an eerie silence fell over me — not exactly of the pin-drop variety, but a silence, nonetheless. I was there to see Deerhunter, and it seems only a handful of fellow concertgoers had similar intentions. Perhaps the big hockey game on that night was to blame for the lack of bodies, or maybe it was Deerhunter being billed as The Ponys’s opening act which dissuaded some. Whatever the reason, the emptiness cast a strange glow over the bar.
Nontheless, I had been itching to see Deerhunter in the flesh ever since I read a scathing testimonial on their MySpace page. In it, the author writes, “I’ve seen over 100 shows in my life, and I’ve seen bad, believe me. But you guys take the cake … If I see your flyer in my town, I will take it down. If you are booked anywhere within a State of me, I will publicly speak and tell people not to go. You are a pile of shit in this ‘thing’ we call the music business. Go get a job. Fuckin’ wannabes.”
Needless to say, my curiosity was piqued, and I needed to see for myself if there was any truth in this vicious band-bashing. As I expected, there was not. When Deerhunter ripped into a mind-crushing set of experimental strangeness, it became brutally clear this was going to be a show to remember — a show to file in my rolodex of great rock-n-roll memories. Live, the young Southerners amped-up their darker, more sinister side, throwing a cloak of reverb and red light over ricocheting vocal loops and droning six-strings. The result was a more hypnotic sound than on Deerhunter’s recordings, and the small, appreciative crowd soaked up a set consisting mostly of songs from their brilliant Cryptograms.
Regardless of the aural pleasure, it was the outragous sight of singer Bradford Cox which will forever be burned into my memory. Beginning the show in a green hooded jumper and khakis, his attire soon gave way to what appeared to be an elderly woman’s nightgown, complete with lace, frills and a rather high hem. His skeletal frame then proceeded to creep among various instruments and bandmates, towering above the crowd as he mixed low, guttural sounds into pop-like melodies. The effect was a surreal, to say the least, and it came off like some Lynchian scene that makes you nervous to sleep alone.
When the group dismounted the stage, I was left feeling somewhat shaken, but entirely satisfied. Perhaps someday, I will tell my grandkids about this one, and perhaps my wife will be clothed in evening wear similar to Cox’s when I do.
Technically, Chicago rockers The Ponys were the headliners at this show, but, judging by crowd reaction, the bands could have easily been switched on the bill. Nothing was wrong with The Ponys, per se, but their anticlimactic set was nothing all that remarkable, either.