Tuesday, May 10, 2005

"Come See the Duck!"

I feel slightly overwhelmed by things I want to talk about. So, I'm going to stick to something recent and straight forward for the moment, perhaps moving on to more random topics in days to come.

Yesterday, I saw Deerhoof play at the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, hosted by R5 Productions, a local grassroots-type production company. The venue was certainly not what I was used to, as the concert was held in the basement of a church. But things were well run and on the whole, I was impressed. It was far from professional, but in many ways the amateurishness was charming and refreshing. R5 also has a record and CD exchange (i.e. you can purchase other people's old music or get money for yours) that was rather neat.

The show started off with Needelle, a singer-songwriter from San Francisco. It must have been her first tour, because it was quite obvious that she was nervous and slightly embarrassed while performing. Being shy myself, I found it very endearing and adorable. She was also very cute, which went right along with the adorable vibe. While I wasn't completely blown away by her songwriting, she does have a charming voice that was quite pleasing to listen to. She also did a nice cover of Smokey Robinson's "Hunter Caught by the Game." I'm hoping that her talent will progress, and that we'll hear more from Needelle soon.

Next, there was One Long Lash, a drum and guitar duo. The fact that I had to look back at R5's website to remember the band's name should say a lot about my opinion of their performance. While they have a decent sound, their stage presence left much to be desired. Their music was also incredibly repetitive--almost all the songs were based around one rhythm, which was driven into the ground about half way through their set. They also took the stop-start-jerking technique a bit too far, putting it in about every song. The most pleasant part of their performance was that the drummer looked an awful lot like Professor Covault. Obviously, this made me giggle to myself for quite some time.

The Danielson Famile was third to perform (see link for information on the band, as well as sample songs). By this time, the small basement was getting very crowded and incredibly hot. The lead singer Daniel was dripping with sweat before their set even started. I was unfamiliar with the group before coming to the show, and I will say that I was incredibly surprised. First off, they are impressive in size (eight total), especially when compared to the two person act they followed. Their sound is also very unique. I'm not really sure how to describe it, and I'm not sure that I agree with the description I read on the R5 website, so I will forgo trying. Decide for yourself. The lead singer's voice has an on-the-verge-of-possessed sound (think BloodBrothers minus the incessant screaming) that, when combined with the sweet sound of the four girls' voices, gives the Danielson Famile an almost eerie tone. Combined with the nurse costumes they perform in, they almost seem like a cult. But, the set was lively, filled with audience participation (via clap-alongs) and well-written songs. All around, a good time.

Finally finally finally, it was time for Deeeeeerhhooooooof, which for me was the main event. A foursome from San Francisco, Deerhoof has a very original sound that (again) I won't try to label. Whatever you decide to call it, it is awesome. Their set was unlike any that I had seen in a while. There was very little talking. Satomi (singer and bass player) didn't even announce their name until about twenty minutes in. They just played--songs running together, some not even played in their entirety. It was almost like a live DJ mix of all of their albums. One of the most interesting things was watching the way the members stay together. I was most impressed by the drummer Greg. Amidst what looked like epileptic convulsions, he managed to 1) never miss a beat (aside from the very end, where he lost a drum stick and attempted to play out the rest with his hand, but had troubles) 2) seemed very connected to the rest of the band. Satomi also managed to rock out quite a bit while still staying in-tune with the band. Towards the end, she also danced around as she sang, which was both fun and adorable (she is even shorter than I am, and so she has a very cute look about her).

After the show, which ended in an encore performance of Panda, Panda, Panda (off of Apple O'), the band rushed to their merchandise table. I shuffled back there and bought their newest EP, "Green Cosmos," which was released in Japan, but doesn't come out here until June 2nd. I listened to it on the way home, and must say that I enjoy it quite a bit. They've moved towards more dance-like rhythms, and sometimes branch out to more elaborate orchestration. It's great to see a good band's sound evolve, and in a good direction. If you get a chance to listen to it, I can almost guarantee you that you'll be saying to yourself "Come see the duck!" for a good while afterwards. At least I was.


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