Deerhunter, Institute of Contemporary Art, July 12, 2007
NO LONGER AWKWARD? Bradford Cox
There were no frocks or fits of self-abuse on stage at the Institute of Contemporary Art last Thursday. Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox, who’s been known to wear dresses and to toss himself around a bit, instead stayed rooted to the floor, allowing the alarmingly thin arms that jutted out from his sleeveless Cramps T-shirt and his haunted stare to speak to his outsider status.
If Deerhunter fans have been put off over the past few months by all the blogging about the band’s “poop journal” or the controversy surrounding Cox’s posts about his “top five fantasy boyfriends,” it wasn’t reflected in the turnout. The ICA’s Barbara Lee Theater was already nearing capacity by the end of Keith Fullerton Whitman’s heady opening set — a one-man-with-one-guitar-and-a-whole-table-of-effects affair, backlit by cascading home movies. And Deerhunter were greeted by warm applause when they shuffled into place among the amps and mic stands strewn about the floor of the theater, where, rather than a riser, the drums were sitting on a rug with a hefty cinderblock in place to keep them from moving.
Cox, who suffers from the genetic disorder Marfan syndrome (thus his unusually long, skinny frame), is a troubled romantic whose poetic turns of verse have found a happy home amid the angular, avant-rockist churnings of the Atlanta-based Deerhunter. Not that it was all that easy to hear him: his high lilting voice was so drowned in echo that it was hard to understand even the few words he directed toward the crowd between songs. In the sparer passages of “Heatherwood,” with its clickety-clack drumstick rhythm and pretty guitar arpeggios, Cox’s vocals functioned primarily as another layer of melody, much like the murmurs of a young Michael Stipe. Indeed, Deerhunter brought to mind R.E.M.’s Athenian cousins Pylon just as often as they recalled the noise-drenched shoegazing of Velocity Girl. Cox was eventually able to control the delay on his voice, just in time to cut through the charging dissonance of “Strange Lights” with the anthemic pronouncement “We walk into the sun.” Caught up in the moment, he no longer looked awkward or the least bit strange.
: Live Reviews
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