It’s important to take a break from your daily routine from time to time. For some, this might mean going out to dinner or visiting your local movie theatre on a school night. For this writer, taking a break from my day to day means going to a concert halfway through the week. Deerhoof is a band I’ve been a fan of for a relatively short amount of time. In fact, I don’t think I seriously listened to them until Pitchfork came out with the mini documentary Checking in at 20 in 2014 that centered around the bands drummer, Greg Saunier, as well as Lighting Bolt’s Brian Chippendale. Regardless, I was quick to fall into their discography since then and have been waiting for a chance to catch them unleash their sonic explosion in a live setting. Luckily, my chance came this last Thursday.
After a long day at work, I was itching to head over to the High Noon Saloon where the show was happening. Accompanied by a friend, we showed up for a quick round before the opening act, Solid Freex began. It’s tough to say what band sounds anything like Deerhoof so I would assume it’s challenging to find opening acts let alone, local opening acts. I have to say though, Madison’s Solid Freex did a first-rate job. With their old school punk lyricism over a complex rhythm section, the three piece blasted through a ten or eleven song set list and left a gallon of sweat on the stage before calling it a night. My show-companion even remarked that this band was the better of the openers. However, I disagree; Proud Parents were the band I was thinking about the rest of the night.
As stated above local openers are hard to find, especially when they’re going up against a group like Deerhoof. I was surprised to see that a second Madison band was opening up for the headliners as the status quo would typically be a regional band or whatever group was on tour with the headlining act. Nevertheless, Proud Parents brought the energy of a touring act. After walking on stage to the light-hearted title track from Footloose, the band delivered a solid half-hour of chord-driven power pop that would’ve had the crowd moving if they weren’t reserving their energy for Deerhoof. Definitely check out the bands LP Sharon is Karen and try to see them live if possible.
After Proud Parents cleared the stage the time had finally come for Deerhoof. After a second round of beers, my friend and I inched our way as close to the front stage left as possible so that our view of Greg Saunier, was optimal.
The first third of Deerhoof’s set was classic to what they’re known for; loose rhythms that seem to fall apart but only transition into deeper sections that take the listener for an auditory rollercoaster ride. About twenty minutes into their set, guitarist Ed Rodriguez broke a string. Rather than sit quietly while he changed the string, Saunier took the opportunity to jump up from his drum kit to walk up to the microphone and explain why they didn’t have a spare guitar to switch out for the one with the broken string. Apparently they did bring another guitar but it got left at a venue earlier in the tour, long story short. Fortunately, Rodriguez is a professional and the band was ready to proceed into their better known material starting with the song, Paradise Girls.
As the rest of the set progressed, Saunier would get up to talk between songs but for the most part, they stuck to their spirited music that wowed even members of the crowd who had seen them before and knew what to expect. At about two thirds into the set, I began to wonder how much of the Deerhoof’s performances were improvised. While much of the music relies heavily on dynamic changes and specific melodies, it appeared as though the rhythm section chose to follow the melody rather than the standard other way around. But Deerhoof isn’t a typical band, their music is clearly studious but not pretentious; there’s sections that require its audience to pay attention but those sections are almost always followed by something amusing or catchy for the casual music listener. This is probably why they’ve has been able to hang on to their cult status for over twenty years without having to sell out.
After and hour-long performance and one song for an encore, Deerhoof was finished and my friend and I left for our respective homes. With my ears ringing, I fell back into my weekly routine the next day and all was normal again but I can’t shake the feeling of getting to see one of the most exciting bands of our generation and the ever-welcomed joy I get from hearing newer, local bands like Proud Parents and Solid Freex. Stay tuned for more live reviews and I apologize for not taking pictures at the show, although I’d suggest show goers do the same and just enjoy the music.
Click here to listen to the bands most recent single, I Will Spite Survive.
– By Mike Metcalf