Deerhoof at the Middle East Downstairs, October 23, 2008
The SF-based Deerhoof performed at the Middle East a week ago Thursday with the amusingly repetitive precision of a puppet show or an assembly of wind-up toys. The four members played side by side, perched on the front edge of the stage, leaving little room between themselves and the sold-out crowd.
Lead singer and bassist Satomi Matsuzaki, a sprightly Japanese woman with feathered hair and a black T that read “Worried,” gazed into nowhere as she sang recent favorites “+81” and “Twin Killers.” In between verses, however, she’d hop up and down like an aerobics instructor or an excited child. Lanky guitarists Rodriguez and John Dieterich, with matching Gibsons, marched back and forth while flanking drummer Greg Saunier, who was drenched in sweaty energy as he worked a kit consisting solely of kick, snare, crash cymbals, and over-sized hi-hats.
Deerhoof’s set — which drew from the latter end of their nine studio albums, 2005’s The Runners Four to their most recent, Offend Maggie — was anything but mechanical. Their ability to blend dirty guitars, weird rhythms, quick mood shifts, and Matsuzaki’s childlike vocals was bolder and more concentrated live than on record. Stripped of its organ, “The Perfect Me” (the first track from 2007’s Friend Opportunity) revealed their experimental multi-instrumentalism as just icing on the cake of substantive, well-written rock.
Their three encores were appropriately weird, with Matsuzaki parading a large tiger’s head out for “Basket Ball Get Your Groove Back” and a lion’s head for “Snoopy Waves.” The still-smitten crowd hung around in hopes of more, but while Deerhoof will likely never run out of ideas, they have only so many heads.
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