Deerhunter at Fine Line, 9/9/13

Categories: Last Night
Photo By Joanna Fox

With Marnie Stern
Fine Line Music Cafe, Minneapolis
September 9, 2013

Over the years, Bradford Cox has proven himself to be utterly unpredictable and entirely fascinating in a live setting, creative traits and tendencies that ultimately make Deerhunter's (as well as Atlas Sound's) performances so compelling. Last night at the Fine Line, Cox and his talented Deerhunter cohorts delivered a brazen, experimental two-hour set that found the band balancing tenuously between blissful pop numbers and brutal, deafening sonic excursions. Each raw, untamed number proved to be entirely absorbing, with the band assuredly making rock 'n' roll savagely exciting once again, if only just for the night.

See Also: Atlas Sound at the Cedar Cultural Center, 3/02/12

After a bizarre stream of pre-show music that bounced among thunderous garage rock, radical experimentalism, and the tranquil sounds of waves crashing, the band finally took to the darkened, smoke-filled stage, and eased into the ethereal pop churn of opener "Earthquake," as Cox quickly joined in the fray, sporting a messy black wig and a Cramps T-shirt. He peppered the rather somber song with dramatic yelps, encouraging the group to expand the shadowy edges of the hypnotic number as it dissolved into an MBV-like squall during a long outro. Cox strapped on a guitar and lead the band through a dynamic, pulsing "Cryptograms," while diffidently shielding himself from the blinding spotlights on the stage.

Cheering between songs was a mostly futile effort throughout the night, as Deerhunter typically let piercing feedback ring out during the mercurial transitions from one track to the next. It was more like an art installation that we were merely observers of, not in any way participants in, with the band's only real connection with the crowd the spellbinding music they were offering up to us. A haunting run through of "Cover Me (Slowly)/Agoraphobia" kept the strong start going, with the group switching things up from recent shows and playing a song they typically have been saving for the encore. The band really stretched out on this version, with Cox shredding on guitar above the track's intoxicating rhythm.

After a fitful first half-hour of the show, Cox finally addressed the crowd with a cursory "Thank you!" before guitarist Lockett Pundt took over lead vocals on a poppy version of "Desire Lines," which gradually unfolded into glorious noise with Cox and Lockett's deft guitar interplay taking the song in a bold, exploratory direction. A raucous, shambolic rendition of "Don't Cry," quickly followed, seamlessly leading into "Revival," which ignited the middle portion of the set.

Photos By Joanna Fox

Cox then went on to tell a long, grim story of the last time the band played Minneapolis: "I believe we were on this very same stage. I have a very unique memory of the last time we played here. Hold your applause," Bradford said ominously. "It's kind of dark, but I'll share it with you anyway. Our tour manager was an African American gentleman, and he was trying to pull out of the alleyway after the show. From what I understand, certain parts of this area are filled with undesirable clientele, and one of those people accosted him and shouted a racial epithet at him. So I jumped out of the van with a blunt object ready to take this guy out, but violence met with more violence doesn't ever really solve anything. Our manager shouted at me, 'Get the fuck back in the van,' before he stepped up to this guy and said, 'Let me pass.' So the white guy scrambled out of his way like the little chicken shit that he was."

After that slightly acrimonious detour, Pundt then led the band through "The Missing," which was given a bit more an urgent bite due to the story that preceded it, an edge that carried over fluidly into a wistful, searing version of "Hazel St." that blossomed into a din of experimental noise as smoke and feedback filled the room. "T.H.M." built on that progressive churn, as Cox stepped to the edge of the stage to scream the song's final lyrics as the band whipped up a frenzied racket behind him.

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