Before 2008 Deerhunter was not known for having very good live shows. Shows were usually sloppily played and dictated by Bradford Cox’s intense, sometimes offensive personality. Sometimes the band was three hours late to go on stage; often Bradford Cox was in a house dress; once a bj was supposedly given during a set. Reports make them sound like the Black Lips’ younger cousins who are really into Bowie and cough syrup. One of the crueler critics of pre-2008 Deerhunter (From LA WEEKLY) wrote: Deerhunter’s live show reminds me of the first scene in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, where Bill and Ted awkwardly flail at their instruments while bitching elliptically about the necessity of making a triumphant video to get Eddie Van Halen to teach them how to play guitar.
Ouch! (Bradford exchanged nasty emails with the writer after this was published, and, of course, posted it on his often incendiary blog). But I’m harping on the bad; the point is now THEY ARE THE BEST LIVE BAND ON THE PLANET!
Ok, maybe not, but pretty damn close. Bryan, Ian and I left the Music Hall of Williamsburg with our mouths agape. Bradford gave us everything we wanted and more: first the brilliant “new” album (yeah I got it leaked too) Microcastle. Then the fantastic companion album Weird Era, which often channels the Brian Jonestown Massacre–if they weren’t such fuckups–and old Verve. Now a mind blowing, almost 2 hour long live show??? Speechless. Not quite Obama win speechless, but uh, close. This was my Obama win-style indie rock moment of 2008.
There are a billion great recaps of this show on the internet–you can even listen to it on MP3 at NYCtaper. I personally don’t even need to relive it because well, it’s something I want remember exactly as it was Friday, November 7, 2008. I left thinking of the beauty in illness and alienation, of Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor, and also of confessional poetry and a lot of stuff that doesn’t have anything to do with wearing housedresses or getting high. It’s very moving to watch someone who is so gaunt and ill-looking blow your mind away with a full-of-life performance (with his amazing band, which, it should be noted, contributed to Microcastle in spades). It is also rallying to see these live-show underdogs smash former criticisms.
I guess touring with NIN–the original woe is me/let’s make some great noise band…oh and PITCHFORK agrees with me on this!–really did make the band shape up. Meanwhile I’m listening to “Saved By Old Times” over and over again–just like I did 5 months ago when I first got the album.
Also check out pics of the show and crowd from Prefix Magazine (including one of Bryan and me looking beautifully disinterested).