Deerhoof // Village Underground, London // 4.09.17
When introducing someone to your musical tastes, the first gig is crucial. Get it right and you’ve gained a gigging buddy for life; get it wrong and not only will you be branded a loser in terms of your tastes, but you’ll also be doomed to attend gigs alone, pretending that your “friends” couldn’t make the concert. Naturally I wanted to make a good impression, which is why my mate and I went to see experimental avant-garde noise rockers Deerhoof. Known for their outrageous outfits, genre-transcending albums and prolonged mid-performance speeches, surely this would be the band to convert her into an artsy, pretentious freak. Luck was on our side: the band provided us with an enigmatic performance unlike anything we’d ever seen before. Our only regret was that they didn’t play for longer.
Amongst the bustling crowd we awaited the ‘hoof. Using my specialist technique of weaving through the masses, we managed to achieve an advantageous position, equidistant from the drum kit (far-right) and vocals (centre-left) with hardly anyone noticing the manoeuvre. While the support was mediocre at best (although Becca must stress that they were memorable, like that means anything) to be fair to them nobody goes to a gig to see the support. I’ve learnt this the hard way whilst touring with my band. As memorable as a man playing two recorders at once is, I’m not sure how or why that qualifies as talent, moreover whether it’s deserved of a lengthy round of applause by an audience of London hipsters. Perhaps I’m just not musically advanced enough to appreciate the “voyage” that we were taken on, or perhaps they were genuinely shit.
The metaphorical clock struck 9:30. It was hoof time. Stretched in a line across the entirety of the stage, without playing a single note the quartet created an energy that not even Liam Gallagher swearing in front of a crowd of fifteen year olds could match. Guitarist Ed Rodriguez stole the show, dressed head to toe in what can only be described as a blue cowboy tasselled all-in-one boiler suit (and if you struggle to picture that outfit then I can only pity you). Second prize went to vocalist/bassist Satomi Matsuzaki, rocking a white dress decorated with various image of musical instruments.
Any Deerhoof fan knows that drummer Greg Saunier has some of the best “chops” in the business. Behind a stripped back kit, this man can get more out of a snare than you can out of a drum machine on garageband. By the end of the gig he was sweatier than Dave Grohl in a sub-Saharan sauna. Beginning the opening song ‘Flower’ with a furious attack on the crash cymbal, bass drum and snare (or, alternatively, the entire drum kit), Saunier brought the crowd alive with ferocious tenacity. New track ‘I Will Spite Survive‘ followed, bringing dreamy pop hooks from Rodriguez and other guitarist John Dieterich, who also provided minor facial spasms with every string bend and hammer-on. They say no one can turn his nose up at a string like Dieterich, with some speculating that his notes are so hot that they release a foul odour when played, causing his facial retractions.
Somewhere between ‘The Perfect Me’ and ‘Exit Only’, a mosh pit had emerged around us. This was something I had not expected, as generally moshing is not an option when the drummer is constantly trying to redefine the meaning of a beat. Still, four Estrella down and pretty much anything will be moshed to. I once saw people moshing to Cage the Elephant for goodness sake! Things got tricky during ‘We Do Parties’ when the pit refused to acknowledge the 9/4 time signature and continued to mosh in common time, in a stubborn rejection of the unusual metre. Satomi desperately tried to resurrect a sense of rhythm with her famous dance moves, waving her hands above her head frantically and giving a few high kicks: a sort of punk rock can-can, if you will. This seemed to fix things pit wise, but not before Rodriguez experienced an issue with his guitar.
A look of dismay and annoyance, combined with a wry grin, appeared on Ed’s face upon the second verse of ‘We Do Parties’, when instead of a distorted lick playing, the audience was greeted with nothing but Dieterich’s twisty bassline. This moment is where the band really shone, as the subsequent fixture and transition back into the regular song was so fluid that a novice listener would struggle to notice anything went wrong. In my opinion, the song was actually improved, with Saunier bursting back into the original verse with a frantic dance groove and Rodriguez, guitar now fixed, confidently releasing the fuzzy hook to a plethora of roaring fans.
After that ecstatic performance, a break was needed both for the band and the crowd. Greg had already given small speeches before which made ‘Polly Bee’, played immediately after the first, even more aggressive. Becca had been hoping for chunky head banger ‘Kafe Mania!’ to make an appearance, and to her delight Greg announced that the next song “was about coffee”. But before we could scream the first “cappuccino”, we were battered by the pit who was just as exited to hear the song as us.
Not every gig can be perfect however, and we were slightly disappointed to hear that the encore chosen was the kooky ‘Basketball Get Your Groove Back’. While not the band’s worst, a more hard-hitting track such as ‘That Ain’t No Life to Me’ or ‘The Tears of Music and Love’ would have been fitting finishers to an otherwise breath-taking set. However, Satomi managed to make the encore thoroughly enjoyable by engaging with the audience: “panda, panda, panda, panda, pan-ET” she chirped, to the confusion of the crowd. It was only later we realised she wanted to touch fingers with her fans, and then presumably retreat to her spaceship and return to her planet of gardening aliens. Still, in a set of twenty bangers, one dud is expected.
We left the gig feeling euphoric, inspired and itching for more. Needless to say, the next time the ‘hoof come to town we’ll be on it faster than Marcus Mumford on Chris Martin’s leftovers. Showing no signs of slowing down and with a new album just released, there will be plenty more opportunities to see one of the most original and exciting bands around.
TL; DR: go see Deerhoof