WHY? & Deerhoof at First Avenue, 06/26/10

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Photos by Adam Bubolz
WHY?/Deerhoof
June 26, 2010
First Avenue


Two Bay-area bands with tight ties (so much so that they even work each others merch table) but disparate sounds rolled through Minneapolis along with the stormy weather on Saturday night, as both Deerhoof and WHY? delivered rousing and warmly received sets at First Ave. And while WHY?'s performance was absorbing and ultimately quite entertaining, it demonstrated why bands often refuse to take the stage after someone as wildly inventive and original as Deerhoof, as they put on a show that was truly hard to match and difficult to follow.

Deerhoof didn't waste any time kicking things into high-gear, as they opened with an amped-up and funky version of "Panda Panda Panda" that got everyone's attention, which they kept throughout the entirety of the show. Their music is built on the gradual build-up of tension layered within their sound, and the inevitable release that comes in a chorus or chord change that proves to be irresistible and infectious. Lead singer Satomi Matsuzaki comes across as a boundless cheerleader for the spirit of their sound, getting the audience to jump along in time with the beat with her just because she makes it look like so much fun. And while she is springing about the stage, the rest of the band remains tightly focused on their complex time signatures and wildly fluctuating rhythms, all led by the supremely talented drumming of Greg Saunier. His drum kit is so sparse and minimal that I'm amazed he gets as much out of it as he does. But that is all due to how unrelentingly he pounds his drums, keeping a creative but steady time while driving the songs forward.

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Photos by Adam Bubolz
Saunier also provided comedic interludes as the band would prepare for the next song, coming all the way across the stage to tell stories and thank the crowd and opening acts on Matsuzaki's microphone. It was endearing, and injected a bit more personality into their show. And while "Fresh Born" "O'Malley, Former Underdog," and "Basket Ball Get Your Grove Back" were all fantastic, I was truly amazed with the covers the band performed. Both the Ramones "Pinhead" and Canned Heat's "Going Up The Country" (with Saunier on vocals and Matsuzaki on drums) were welcome additions to the set, and at once reminded the audience what more "traditional" music sounded like, before the band unleashed their next unconventional and experimental song. It's not often that an opener gets called back out for an encore, but this stirring set deserved one, and the band obliged us with a two-song finale that featured a lively, intense version of "Milking" that closed out their performance on an exceptional high.

WHY? are performing as a five-piece on this tour, which really helped bring some added depth and dimension to their pensive music. With the addition of Fog's Andrew Broder on guitar and Mark Erickson on bass (whose mothers were both in attendance), and given lead singer Yoni Wolf's warm history in Minneapolis, this performance had a bit of a hometown feel to it. It just took a bit of time to fully catch fire, especially in comparison to the combustible set Deerhoof delivered. "These Hands" and "January Twenty Something" eased the show forward, but it wasn't until a stellar version of "Against Me" before the show really hit its stride.

The additional musicians consistently helped perk up what are essentially somber songs, giving them a swing and a cadence that belies the often despondent subjects and themes of these numbers. But Wolf didn't let the morose heart of his music keep him from turning this show into a celebration, delivering inspired versions of "The Vowels, Pt. 2," "Good Friday," and "Fatalist Palmistry" that kept the all-ages crowd engaged and enlivened throughout the 70-minute performance.

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Photos by Adam Bubolz
The songs themselves were varied and distinct, going from straight-ahead hip-hop to moodier, more soulful melodies, with Wolf playing the imaginative maestro over the entire proceedings. The three-song, main set closing "A Sky For Shoeing Horses Under," Into The Shadows Of My Embrace," and "By Torpedo Or Crohn's" were especially gripping, lead continually by Wolf's expressive, unorthodox lyrics and the dynamic support of his band. And after a warm and lengthy applause, they came back out for a two-song encore that kicked off with a moving version of "Simeon's Dilemma" and closed with "21st Century Pop Song," a Hymie's Basement track which Wolf said was recorded right here in Minneapolis (as was most of that record). It was a fitting way to end a night that featured two incredibly inventive and original bands that clearly were happy to be sharing the stage with each other, and an audience unquestionably excited to witness it.


Personal Bias: Longtime listener, first-time caller.
The Crowd: A nice mix of all-agers, diehards, and Pride Weekend revelers.
Overheard In The Crowd: "What language is that chick singing in?"
Random Notebook Dump: Greg Saunier is the funniest drummer this side of Dave King.
Set List:

WHY?

These Hands
January Twenty Something
Against Me
Rubber Traits
Twenty-Eight
The Vowels, Pt. 2
Good Friday
Song Of The Sad Assassin
Fatalist Palmistry
Brook & Waxing
Yo Yo Bye Bye
A Sky For Shoeing Horses Under
Into The Shadows Of My Embrace
By Torpedo Or Crohn's
Encore:
Simeon's Dilemma
21st Century Pop Song
     


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