By Jordan Portlock, photo by Yousef Hatlani
MFNW Recap: Deerhunter
Is arriving 2.5 hours before doors open crazy? Probably. But, hey, this strategy got me front row center stage for one of the best live acts I have ever seen. The two high school aged girls in front of me in line who arrived well before I did had similar aspirations and results, I’m sure.
Opening for Deerhunter was Lonnie Holley. Backed by Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox and Josh McKay on drums and bass (respectively) and The Shins’ Richard Swift on keys, this was a hard set to put a finger on. Holley’s long-winded forays into textural jazz and spoken (dare I say howled?) word were packed with emotion and care and accurately reflect the sounds heard on his previous album but but unfortunately amounted to little more than these descriptions. A fascinating set to watch, nonetheless.
Deerhunter, in line with an earlier set I caught at The Sasquatch Music Festival in 2011, put on the kind of show that young indie rockers can only aspire to. They really have it all: tight indie alt-pop, loud rockers, swirling guitar textures, and the first true frontman alternative rock has had in years, Bradford Cox.
Photo by Yousef Hatlani
Backed by Deerhunter’s wall-of-sound calling card, Cox had free reign all night to push the boundaries of what it means to be a rock band in the 21st Century. This meant invoking the rabid swagger of past frontmen like The Cramps’ Lux Interior and even Kurt Cobain in a whirlwind show held up by moments of pure feral energy.
When he wasn’t commanding the microphone through songs dating back to 2007’s Fluorescent Grey EP, Cox’s weapon of choice was his bright blue teardrop shaped guitar which he not only attempted to literally fuck on a set of monitors about three feet from where I was standing, but also swung around as a figurative cock as he slid it, protruding out from his groin, along the head and face of guitarist and Lotus Plaza mastermind, Lockett Pundt, in one moment of experimental rage. Further rampages ranged from Bowie-esque guitar fellatio to an attempt by Cox to see if he could reach the floor of the crystal ballroom with a massive gob of spit and return it to his mouth.
His attempt was a success. The saliva hit the floor and shot back up (in the process landing on a guitar pick dropped earlier in the show which was courageously scooped from the ground by Yousef Hatlani) as if he had done it a thousand times before which, at this point, he may have. Deerhunter’s set was the result of years developing their reputation as one of alternative music’s most enduring bands and pursuing whatever they damn well please in the process. They are kings of the genre and performed as such.
Photo by Yousef Hatlani
Bradford Cox knows what he is doing. He is reigniting a fire under rock once stoked by prima donna frontmen whose main goal was to excite and inspire. If the scene I witnessed outside the Crystal Ballroom before the show of Cox ferociously chewing out a member of their touring team for not waiting for him to enter the building is any indication, then he and his band are the real deal. After their performance, you’d be hard-pressed to find somebody who thinks otherwise.