Deerhoof / Leg & Pants Dans Theeatre / Le Ton Mité, L'ocelle Mare / Martha Colburn
Bowery Ballroom; New York, NY

[01-30-06]

There
are some bands that compel me to track down every bit of information about
them, whether it's band members' names, place of origin, favorite animals, or
social security numbers*. Deerhoof is not one of those bands. Before the show,
I didn't know much about the group, except for their music.

That's why it was a surprising to see the members of the band. A tiny, Asian
woman and three anonymous-looking white dudes? It was hard to believe these
people were the force behind Deerhoof.

This was the feeling particularly after the barrage of supporting acts. It was
an odd combination featuring musicians, a dance troupe, and most painfully,
two sets of short films by Martha Colburn. The movies were not particularly
enjoyable; the shock value wore off after watching so many shorts in a row.
Colburn's work was like a film version of Kathy Acker stories. During the
first set of films, the venue was relatively empty and most people watched
silently, not knowing how to react. But by the second set of shorts, the
polite crowd grew restless. "Deerhoof! DDEEEERRHHOOOOFF!!" they clamored for
the headliners.

After the interesting opening acts, it was underwhelming to see the band
finally come on stage. However, they played an excellent set. One would think
that their catalogue is full of simple, childish songs, but the band proved
these songs need precision and power in their delivery. It was exciting to see
how physical their performances were. The drummer—Wikipedia says his name is
Greg Saunier, and y'all know Wikipedia don't lie—was absolutely wild, flailing
his arms in every direction. He wasn't just about banging the drums, either;
he also sang some lovely backup vocals to guitarist Chris Cohen's lead in
"Odyssey," one of the highlights of the night. "Odyssey" countered the more
psychedelic, noise-fueled parts of the show with a more straightforward, calm
song.

Another highlight was "Running Thoughts," which has one of the most beautiful
melodies Deerhoof has ever created. The band members took their musicianship
very seriously, especially guitarist John Dieterich, who had this demonic look
in his eye as he made sure to play his parts with accuracy and energy to
spare. It was as if he was possessed to rock and he'd be damned if anyone got
in his way.

It's curious that, although singer Satomi Matsuzaki was full of poses and cool
moves, nothing she or anyone else in the band did felt pretentious. There
wasn't much band/audience interaction, but it was palpable that there was a
mutual respect between the band and the audience. Throughout the night,
Deerhoof played material mostly culled from The Runners Four, which
came out last year. However, they did encore with a spirited version of "Gore
in Rut," which ended with many a Deerhead screaming along, "BUNNY! BUNNYYY!!"
even though the song was over. The enthusiasm was heartwarming, and so were
the thanks that each member gave to the audience. It was an extremely pleasant
surprise to see a technically-proficient, fun band who prioritized playing a
good show over annoying rock star antics.

*=editor’s note. Sorry, elizabeth u (no, our writer is not a stalkerish
psycho).

Photo: Maak Newton