Georgia-based indie rock provocateurs Deerhunter performed at Beachland Ballroom Wednesday evening (09.11.13), bringing their unique blend of pop-tinged noise rock with them. Fronted by the unpredictable, iconoclastic Bradford Cox, Deerhunter have become darlings of the underground scene with critically lauded albums such as ‘Cryptograms’ (2007), ‘Microcastle’ (2008), and ‘Halycon Digest’ (2010). The group has been touring in support of their latest LP–the purposefully lo-fi, garage-blues influenced ‘Monomania’ (05.07.13; 4AD).
The remarkably gaunt Cox, clad in a Cramps t-shirt and Rivers Cuomo circa-“Undone” bowl-cut, and the rest of the five-piece opened the night with ‘Halycon Digest’ lead track “Earthquake.” The opener perfectly encapsulates Deerhunter’s live sonic approach: Cox’s deliberately distorted vocals cast against layers of reverberated guitar noise courtesy of guitarist Lockett Pundt. This swell of sound induces as much a listening experience as it does a full-body experience. The early portion of the set-list was laden with tracks from ‘Halycon Digest,’ including “Don’t Cry,” “Revival” and “Desire Lines.”
The majority of the night (about half the set-list), however, was devoted to‘Monomania.’ Cox howled through album cuts “Blue Agent” and “Dream Captain,” projecting a garage-rock emulation of blues godfathers like Bo Diddley (whom Cox has expressed admiration for, listing him as an influence while recording ‘Monomania’). Following “T.H.M.,” Cox requested the stage lights be killed. “How can there be no light guy?” he bantered, adding “Sorry about the f***ing anti-climactic show people.” This was followed by live staple “Nothing Ever Happened” from ‘Microcastle,’ an extended noise-jam that’s been known to last as long as 20 minutes in concert. Three final, pre-encore tracks off ‘Monomania’ followed: “Sleepwalking,” “Back to the Middle,” and “Monomania.” At the conclusion of “Monomania,” an already slap-dash, noise-drowned centerpiece of Deerhunter’s new album, a two-and-a-half minute sonic punctuation mark of deafening reverb and floor-rattling bass echoed throughout Beachland Ballroom as the band departed from the stage. They returned to close the set with two final tracks off ‘Microcastle’: “Cover Me (Slowly)” and “Agoraphobia.”
In all, Deerhunter delivered their brand of self-described “ambient rock” in a typically solid and engrossing fashion. The Beachland crowd was painfully hip. What, you may ask, does such sentiment mean? While the bombastic Cox engaged, concert-goers, apparently, could only return head-bobs and obligatory cheers at the end of each song. Rarely did the crowd convey energy to match the group. Nonetheless, Deerhunter have rightfully become known as a premiere live act in contemporary indie rock. Wednesday night at Beachland Ballroom only solidified that notion.