Although the bathrooms at the Starlight Ballroom were once referred to as “the apocalypse” by Grizzly Bear frontman Ed Droste a few years back, some of my favorite shows have been performed here (TV on the Radio, Girl Talk, etc.). Deerhunter had no issues overcoming the elements of the world’s end and gave the most inspired performance of their four shows I’ve attended. The varied setlist and extended jams were a nice surprise for longtime fans but may have confused new fans looking for only straight performances of new and highly accessible songs like “Revival” and “Helicopter.” Thankfully, Deerhunter aren’t ready for mainstream radio just yet.
Frontman Bradfox Cox was extraordinarily enthusiast most of the night. The usually reserved Cox (at least since the days he wore dresses opening up for Nine Inch Nails during the Cryptograms era) could be found headbanging during guitar solos and adding new vocal melodies to various songs. The energy was appreciated by some in attendance, but Philly proved to be a disappointing crowd. I don’t care if this show was a weekday makeup for a weekend pool party from the summer. I will never be able to understand how lines at the various bars at the Starlight Ballroom could file in during extended jam sessions for “Nothing Ever Happened” and “He Would Have Laughed,” both approaching the 10-minute mark. Shame on you, Philly!
“We need your youth energy and your youth culture so that we can survive. The median age of this band is 87 years old. We’re looking for a new vessel … you know like in Being John Malkovich … it’s a movie.” – Bradford Cox (disappointed by the reaction).
This was the first Deerhunter show I’ve attended where guitarist Lockett Pundt sang live. He’s recorded vocals on several albums, but Cox has usually taken on those duties live (at the previous three shows I’ve attended). Pundt sang lead vocals for two songs, “Desire Lines” and “Fountain Stairs.” He did admirably on the first track, and the band extended the performance of the song into a highlight-worthy jam session, which they did for several songs in the set. His vocals for “Fountain Stairs” were not nearly as impressive.
Another highlight of the set was some kind of live, 80s-style reinterpretation of “Rainwater Cassette Exchange.” The new arrangements were inspired. When the show ended, Cox and company revisited the stage for an encore that included “Memory Boy” and “Fluorescent Grey,” and Cox jokingly introduced each song as the other. Overall, it’s just not possible to get better than this for a $15 ticket. Deerhunter may be the best live band that cannot sell out a small club. Go check them out now before they turn into Arcade Fire.
You can check out a high quality stream of the previous night’s show in Washington, D.C. by NPR’s All Things Considered here.