Deerhoof at the Walker
Review by Christopher Matthew Jensen
Photos by Daniel Corrigan
I feel like I just got beaten up by a fourth grader. San Francisco art-rock darlings Deerhoof just blasted the hell out of any high-art pretensions at a sit-down affair at the Walker Arts Center.
Down to a trio after the 2006 departure of guitarist Chris Cohen, the band was sleek as a jaguar--and equally vicious. Focused more on their rock/pop element than their artsy experimental side, they ran through their set like kids in a candy store, bouncing from one bin to the next, often running strings of songs from the same album together.
Vocalist Satomi Matsuzaki played a bass about as long as she is tall, and danced around as if hop-scotching or performing jumping jacks. Her sugar-sweet voice anchored the music as it ventured into odd melodic blurts and rhythmic pretzels.
Traversing a sonic galaxy, guitarist John Dietereich's sound was huge and epic, at times sounding like other instruments such as trumpets or synthesizers. From bowel-rattling crunch to shrill feedback squeals, the Wisconsin native navigated absurd changes in contour without ever making it look strenuous.
Drummer Greg Saunier displayed the most energy, huffing and puffing and banging his kit like Art Blakey on a furious 'roid rage. Large chunks of wood flew into the air as he shattered sticks and struck harder than his grip could manage. He also attacked the heads directly with his body, using his palms, fists, elbows, wrists, and forearms.
Rampaging through the group's catalog with no apparent desire to focus on their latest release, Friend Opportunity, the band kept their performance to about an hour, including an encore. Befitting their cute yet crazy sound, the show ended with Matsuzaki holding a stuffed bird up to the mic that triggered a squeaky recording when she squeezed it.
Better Than: Shit, you name it!
By the Way: Guitarist John Dietrich used to live in Minnesota, and Deerhoof once released a track on a split 7" for the local label Modern Radio.
Random Detail: While not all that talkative, Matsuzaki did take the time to inform audience members that their friends Old Time Relijun would be playing later in the evening across the river at Big V's.
Personal Bias: I've probably spun Deerhoof's 2005 record, The Runner's Four, more than any other album released in the last three years.