Desaparecidos at 400 Bar, 8/9/12

Categories: Last Night
Photo by Erik Hess
With Little Brazil
400 Bar, Minneapolis
Thursday, August 9, 2012

See Also:
Slideshow: Desaparecidos at 400 Bar
Desaparecidos' Denver Dalley on writing Read Music/Speak Spanish and the artistic use of racial slurs

Conor Oberst can pack good-sized theaters playing his folkier, more precious Bright Eyes material, but a Desaparecidos show -- the first on the group's reunion tour -- at a 275-capacity club means he'll sweat on you. With an energized crew backing him, the gifted songwriter wailed and snarled through 13 glimmering punk songs that retain all of the social discontent of the early aughts, and now show how far we have (or haven't) come since then.

Photo by Erik Hess
Bespectacled Desaparecidos bassist Landon Hedges got the evening started with his band Little Brazil, which earnestly features fewer screams, but just as much emotion. In the middle of their second song, Hedges was throwing himself around the stage enough that he lost his glasses. With full-throated clarity, Hedges led his outfit through songs detailing "my fifth wife" and wolves that were anthemic and catchy.

Refreshingly, this was the first show featuring Oberst that Gimme Noise has attended that didn't feature breathless squeals from the audience from start to finish. Though he walked out to appreciative cheers, the focus stayed more on the music at hand than any sort of tearful existential moment that threatens constantly during a Bright Eyes show.

Photo by Erik Hess
Like he sings on "Man and Wife, the Latter (Damaged Goods)," Oberst seems to be "growing out my hair like it was when I was single," and his mane flopped every which way as they unpacked all of 2002's Read Music/Speak Spanish, which was recorded before their frontman was yielding Bob Dylan comparisons and a good portion of Omaha bands blew up. If the suspense is still killing, it turned the room into a happy pit of abandon. This song in particular -- about a suburban couple drifting apart -- is one that a now-32-year-old Oberst could deliver with the added conviction of his own experience.

Though there's a wealth of material from the Bright Eyes catalog that delves into politics and the frustration coming from living in the monster military complex of the U.S., the Desaparecidos songs strip the associated anger bare. "The Happiest Place on Earth" is the ultimate protest of the set -- and guitarist Denver Dalley did his part to add the necessary to conjure the apt electric rage from his instrument. With Hedges handling backup vocals and bass in between Oberst and Dalley, the trio expertly beckoned out surges and breakdowns throughout the evening.

Photo by Erik Hess
Though Oberst didn't say much, he did pause to introduce the brutish song dedicated to the Twin Cities' most notorious tourist attraction, "Mall of America." In the ensuing years, a bigger shopping center popped up in Edmonton, he said, and "It makes your shit look like child's play." Later on, before launching into a newer song presenting an anti-Sheriff Joe perspective on immigration law, "Marikkopa," Oberst went into greater detail about his stance. "This country was built on two of the greatest sins: the genocide of the Native Americans and the enslavement of Africans," he said, and went ton to discuss the massive U.S. military. "We don't have to be the greatest country in the world. We can just be a country in the world... It's like playing Risk with your asshole older brother."

And, for the encore, we got a reminder of who an elder sibling of the Desaparecidos would be as they launched into a faithful version of the Clash's "Spanish Bombs." What little thrashing there would be left for the evening was expelled during Read Music/Speak Spanish's final track, "Hole in One," which came last. Protest music need never feel dated, and Thursday's show was a reminder of how prescient it can be too.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias:
Conor Oberst has gotten much stronger as a vocalist over the years, but he always had the passion to deliver punk with the aggression it deserves. More, please.

Random Detail: "Damaged Goods" was such an emotionally charged moment in the set that Oberst locked foreheads with Dalley and appeared to exchange kisses on the cheek.

The Crowd: A lot of people in tight T-shirts. Though there were plenty of vocal folks packed into the 400 Bar who spoke of past Desaparecidos glories, Gimme Noise -- and many fresh-faced young adults who weren't old enough to drive back in 2002 -- was a first-timer.


Greater Omaha
Man and Wife, the Former (Financial Planning)
The Happiest Place on Earth
Mall of America
Backsell This Song
The Left is Right
Survival of the Fittest/ It's a Jungle Out There
Man and Wife, the Latter (Damaged Goods)

Spanish Bombs
Hole in One

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Great show, love me some Desaparecidos, and generally all things Conor Oberst.  Amazing "Spanish Bombs" cover.


Gotta say, I had a feeling Conor would take time out to lecture like Ward Churchill.  What's the point of getting pedantic, though, when it's all in the music?  Did you notice it suck the life right out of the room?

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