Darwin Deez and Fol Chen at the Entry, 1/17/11
January 17, 2011
7th St. Entry, Minneapolis
From the name alone, Darwin Deez is the kind of band you expect something at least mildly ridiculous from. On that front, the New York-based indie rock group does not disappoint; their performance last night at the 7th St. Entry was flush with antics as charming as they were unselfconsciously tongue-in-cheek.
With two guys on guitar, one on bass, and another on drums, Deez creates a slow electric sound that seems equal parts influenced by classic rock and today's most successful indie rockers (Phoenix and Vampire Weekend come to mind). Deez (real name Darwin Smith), frontman, guitarist, and lead vocalist for the band, manages to cultivate a very DIY-brand of lo-fi electro-pop as his songs unfold on stage, with an unsuspecting charm that seems born out of time spent playing all the parts himself. Deez himself exudes charisma; lanky and tall, with a mess of soft curls and a mustachioed smile, he defines his set with a delightfully playful style that infects the audience.
That said, there were a few sonic elements that could have used fine-tuning--and kinks that will surely be worked out as the band gains experience and continues to expand. As a vocalist, Deez is interesting and perhaps deliberately sweet, but it is the full-bodied guitar-swinging that carries the band and engages fans.
Between songs, Deez and his bandmates broke down into choreographed dance routines to mash-ups of hits from the '80s and '90s, which was possibly the most winning and well-executed portion of their performance. Those familiar with Deez's music videos might not have been surprised by the dance breakouts, but for those who weren't, the routines gained laughter and cheers from the crowd, and as Deez jumped back into a song, audience members intensified their dancing.
Deez has gained some recognition overseas in the U.K., where their synth-pop tracks like "Constellations" and "Radar Detector" reached high on the UK Singles Chart and the UK Indie Chart. He is on his first U.S. tour, and his new single "Bad Day" is scheduled to drop today. In a little over a month (February 22), Deez is set to release his self-titled debut album. It will be worth checking out, and at the very least will be a nice sample of guilt-free feel-good pop music without all the sugar coating.
Worth mentioning were second openers Fol Chen. The five-piece band were great crowd-rousers, assembled onstage in matching red uniforms. They were an interesting crew to see together, and with three lead vocalists (one of whom played keyboard and another on lead guitar), a bass player, and a drummer, with synths and tambourines and other toys mixed in, were high on energy and snarky between-song chatter. They were funny, and entertaining, and when they nailed a song, they really nailed it (when they didn't nail it, well, you liked 'em for trying, anyway). Their sound was electro-pop-ish, but not the Darwin Deez variety--more the compilation variety. They took turns on vocal parts and showcased a variety of styles, but mostly came back to a sound that was kind of like a revved-up sci-fi movie soundtrack.
Critic's Bias: I have been in love with the song "In Ruins" from Fol Chen for months, but I didn't have a bias going into the show. Just a lot of mental notes.
The Crowd: PBR-guzzling young twentysomethings with ironic haircuts and Ray-Bans, all of whom were ready to dance.
Overheard in the Crowd: "ALCOHOL!" screamed someone in reply to the question "How do you guys deal with the cold?" from Darwin Deez.
Random Notebook Dump: Besides noting that band members for Darwin Deez and first opener Friends looked very Williamsburg... Fol Chen did a cover of Maroon 5's "She Will Be Loved" and it was so awesomely bad and so very right at the same time.