Deerhoof @ the Avalon, 12.10.07

I've seen Deerhoof (MySpace) four or five times in both Cleveland and Los Angeles, as a trio and a quartet. Every time I've seen the legendary San Francisco group (and yes -- they are legendary), I've been sucked deeper and deeper into my Deerhoof fandom. (I would like to think at this point that, with eyes closed, I could accurately imagine John, Greg, and Satomi's movements and erratic technique).

I go to Deerhoof shows knowing approximately what to expect, but always stunned at what they wind up delivering. I know that Greg will break at least one drum stick; I know that Satomi will remind the audience of her trademark dance moves; I know that John will spend most of his time on stage staring at the floor or gazing off into space, in the deepest expression of concentration I've ever seen on a guitarist. The group never misses a beat, never botches a song up (and when an "error" does arise, they sublimely re-congeal, improvise, and get right back up again), and never seems detached or disinterested in their music. And they've every right to be. After, by some counts, sixteen years as a band (Greg is the only "original" member), the current three know their material like the back of their hand. They've ended with "Panda, Panda, Panda" dozens if not hundreds of times, they've played the crowd pleasers ("Milk Man," "Rrrrright," "Wrong Time Capsule") to death, but they somehow retain their enthusiasm and energy. It's a rare band that sees their group as a means of exploration rather than a hindrance or a box they've trapped themselves in; a glass ceiling of sorts.

While the "core" Deerhoof will remain the same -- same songs, same line-up, same tendencies -- the trio will continue to spring off that unification into a myriad ways. The second time I saw the band, they played with a jazzier, fleshed-out identity, putting some swing into their songs, adding modest melodious accents and bass warbles. The third time I saw them, they sped things up a bit, added a little flash to their style, and swung to a more digestible side of the musical spectrum: they were nearing radio-friendly. This show at the Avalon was like a Deerhoof show done prog ... it was Deerhoof but twisted into this heavy, almost metal sort of mode. John dragged out his usually spiky, enigmatic guitar lines (which serve more like a punctuation rather than a grammatically correct sentence) ... a sort of sludgier, grittier reinterpretation of the studio material. Satomi played around with complex bass rhythms and added another dimension to the noisier jams (and did it all fro atop a second stage behind Greg and John -- very metal of them -- but alas, no smoke machine). Greg led the crowd on more than ever with his eclectic drumming (even though he still uses the tiniest kit you'll ever see -- and wields it better than any mega-kit drummer), but still delivered the "goods" in the end.

Deerhoof tends to release a new album every year. Even if they don't continue this trend in 2008, just know that whatever they've up their sleeve will continue to stun and intrigue you. Another reinvention? Equally as different and divergent as the previous LPs, and certainly just as exciting. Keep an eye out.

Photos here and after the jump!

Deerhoof - Milking (Live)

Deerhoof - Twin Killers (Live)

Deerhoof - Panda, Panda, Panda (Live)

Deerhoof - Milk Man (Live)