Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Live: Deerhunter and Violens

When: 12/8 at the Stereogum award thingy
Where: Music Hall of Williamsburg

Finally bringing my long run of shows by trendy bands to a close, Stereogum hosted some awards thingy and invited Deerhunter and Violens to play.

As with all the shows this week, I was more excited to hear the opener than the headliner. I've been pretty crazy about the Violens for a while now, but hadn't caught them live. The songs I'd heard online and around were really great New Wave gems that managed to maintain the spirit of the genre but make it fresh for 2008. Or that's what I thought.

Violens (photo by Tom Hines)
The Violens

But the show was a complete disappointment. What I heard wasn't updated New Wave at all, it was a string of early-80's cliches, and on a more basic level, the pieces really didn't come together. The drummer was particularly weak - his playing was fine, but his beats short-changed songs that could have been made a lot better with the right groove. Likewise, the guitar parts were not great to begin with and were rather poorly executed. Moreover, the band was not fun to watch. They didn't move much, and they spent way too long between songs - mostly due to the fact that apparently the guitar player 1. had to change guitars for every single song (was this supposed to impress people?) and 2. could only afford one strap between all three guitars. Whatever their reasons, it was unprofessional, obnoxious and disrespectful to the audience.

The Violens were best when they were loudest and darkest. At those moments, their weaknesses seemed to fade and everything would come together. But those parts were lamentably few. Sure, the songs that sound strongest recorded (notably "Lightning Lightning") sound good live, but it wasn't worth listening to the others to get there.

I was about to get pissed about wasting $16, but I figured I'd stick around and hear Deerhunter. I had them down in my mind as overrated and uninteresting - initial attempts to listen to their album failed to pull me in and I hadn't bothered to go back to it. But since I was there, why not see what all the fuss was about?

Deerhunter (photo by Loreana)

And it was great! I was immediately drawn in by the beautiful walls of sound, and quickly came to appreciate the songs' innovative compositions. Sure, I've heard better, and I don't think this band isn't worth quite all the hype (it's a lot), but I was pleased to learn that they've certainly earned some of it. Though they have some moments when their vision falters, their best moments are still outstanding.

As for the performance, I'd give it mixed reviews. I would have thought over a year of pretty serious success would have made the band feel more at home on stage, but they still looked young and uncomfortable. It seemed like they were genuinely trying to put on a good show, but there was a lot of rigidity and inhibition preventing them. Maybe I'm misinterpreting, but in any case, they need to get used to being professionals and start acting like they own the stage. Cause they do.

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