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AU57: Deerhunter live

June 1, 2009

This has been amended (hopefully improved) a bit since it was published.

deerhunter

DEERHUNTER
BLACK BOX, BELFAST

Bradford Cox is in a good mood tonight. The Deerhunter frontman has a reputation for occasional prickliness, but from the outset when he cheerfully announces, “This is our first song, and it’s called ‘Rainwater Cassette Exchange,” his demeanour is positively sunny. Bassist Josh Lauver, meanwhile, seems to be in a pleasantly stoned daze throughout, a half-smile teasing across his lips for much of the set, breaking into a delighted grin when the crowd get excited, which is often. The same can’t be said for both their bandmates, however – guitarist Lockett Pundt (what a great name, by the way, like some kind of Victorian ne’er-do-well) spends the gig in a sour-faced funk and drummer Moses Archuleta has to field jocular brickbats from Cox at regular intervals. Something about a dead baby in a drum case. We humour him.

You don’t need to present a united front when you sound this good, though, and the Atlantans manage to display all the sides of their fractured character. They’re a band that refuses to be put in any box, live as well as on record, and they veer between psych-pop (‘Rainwater Cassette Exchange’, ‘Agoraphobia’), post-punk (‘Nothing Ever Happened’), Krautrock (‘Octet’, ‘Cryptograms’), noise (‘White Ink’, or it could have been ‘Red Ink’ – hard to tell) and shoegaze (‘Never Stops’). It shouldn’t work, but it does, especially after ‘Nothing Ever Happened’ is dropped surprisingly early. It’s a proper juggernaut, Archuleta and Fauver locked together and pounding away relentlessly, overlaid with Cox and Pundt’s gloriously mangled guitar work. That starts the dance down the front and it never really stops.

Late in the evening, Cox is so relaxed that he wastes a good five minutes trying to work out the plot of the Addams Family films with the crowd, having watched the second one in the van before the show. But his charm prevails and the encore is a joyous affair, with the dark-but-danceable ‘Agoraphobia’, fan request ‘Operation’ and oldie ‘Strange Lights’, which morphs into an MBV-style noise jam with the help of two kids plucked from the front row and handed Cox’s guitar and Fauver’s bass. The young guy given the guitar looks like all his Christmasses have come at once, and who can blame him? This is a special band.

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