First Night, Deerhoof
Last night marked Deerhoof's first night on their American tour in support of Friend Opportunity. The show was at the El Rey which -- as far as I know -- may have been the largest venue they've ever played in L.A. I loved seeing them at the Troubadour because it was more intimate: I saw the sweat dripping from the guitarist's face, the drum stick splinters on the ground, Satomi's footwork (still up to her crazy choreography). But the El Rey was good, good. If anything, the place was optimal for their "new" sound, which is bigger and requires more attention: the layering, the complexities, the cooperation between guitar and drums, drums and vocals, guitar and vocals ... Deerhoof are 110% comfortable with each other, and it made last night's show spectacular. Once you fully understand how your band mates play, you can explore new territories, you can organically evolve and alter every piece, and make nothing sound forced or rigid.
As with Gang of Four, Deerhoof's rhythm section has this uncanny ability to accent the melody, wherever it's coming from. Often times, I felt like the melody was not being carried merely by the guitar, but by the guitar that was supplemented, accented, and accentuated by the drums.
One new thing that Friend Opportunity and the limited line-up has brought about is more of a stress on individual merit and potential. It was strange -- but really awesome! -- how Deerhoof would almost like, break into jam sessions. The songs generally maintained their shorter length, but consistently delved into intense experimentation and further development. Deerhoof's live shows always so distantly represent carbon copies of the recorded material. It's as though you're hearing the record (full blast, of course) in a different dimension, a different reality.
And that reminds me ... Friend Opportunity has been compared frequently to the likes of Yes, Genesis, and other art-rock groups for the 70s. This comparison is totally founded, I decided after listening to them live last night. Deerhoof is clearly eager to explore the experimental potential hidden within every single beat, hook, and melody. This willingness to change and constantly learn more is what makes Deerhoof all the more appealing and fascinating to me.
Lastly, the set itself was really stellar. The band started off with primarily older stuff (and got the sold-out audience sufficiently pumped up), but finished it all off with more recent pieces, including a slightly altered version of "+81" (no trumpet line).
The encore was spectacular, although it almost sounded like another set to me (I think they played another five songs!) ...
The band mentioned they were nervous to be starting up another American tour, but this show should have rid them all of that sentiment ... they've nothing be be scared of or nervous of.
What an amazing group.