On the prowl for Deerhunter
On October 16, a Saturday night, I felt inspired—to leave, that is. I decided that for one weekend I would disappear from the Hill for a night of adventure on my own. Leaving a weekend’s worth of red plastic cups and blasting Top-40 hits behind, I borrowed a friend’s car and drove toward downtown Boston, braving rush-hour traffic in order to see Deerhunter perform at the Royale Boston.
With the recent release of Halcyon Digest, the band’s fourth studio album, I felt that the three-hour drive was something worth doing. And with bumper-to-bumper traffic, I was humbled by the extra hour it took to make my way towards my “big idea.”
After braving twisting streets and finding a parking spot in Boston Common, I felt prepared as I walked down the bustling, crowded streets of an unfamiliar city on Saturday night.
When I got to the club, one of the opening acts was still on, a rock group that had several songs that sounded like angsty college rock. While I waited in the crowd all I could think about was the fact that I drove almost two hundred miles by myself to go to a concert by myself.
To boot, as I wrestled with my sanity, I noticed a sea of thick-rimmed Ray-Bans, V-necks, and competitive conversations on Indie-music minutiae surrounded me. I guess it felt right. We were all there to see Deerhunter, and we all cheered and clapped when the band finally took the stage.
The band opened up with “Desire Lines,” which is probably one of the strongest songs off of its new, critically acclaimed album. The drums and bass strike in unison as the twinkle of an electric guitar gives way to demure, longing vocals on lost youth. In short, “Desire Lines” is like most of the songs on Halcyon Digest: a marriage between post-punk garage-rock and polished, well-balanced ambiance. Because of this ambient garage feel, none of the quality was lost on the stage as the band brought their catchy, haunting song to life.
Formed in the alternative music capital of Athens, GA in 2001, Deerhunter is made up of Bradford Cox, Moses Archuleta, Josh Fauver, and Lockett Pundt. Cox, the lead singer, is one of the most striking people you’ll ever see—tall and deathly skinny on account of his genetic disorder Marfan syndrome; he’s weird and he knows it. Cox’s disassociation with “normal” led him to explore his love of music in solitude, to forge friendships through bands and to assume an identity he felt comfortable with under his solo music venture, Atlas Sound.
On stage, Cox performed with an animal-like excitement alongside his band mates. Deerhunter’s performance of “Revival” had an upbeat rock rhythm made up of low beating drums, a synth-like base, an acoustic guitar, and Cox’s soaring, almost-moaning vocals.
Nostalgic and defiant, “Revival” is one of the band’s catchiest songs to date and when the signature beginning commenced, the crowd of flannel-wearing twentysomethings bounced in anticipation and excitement. The pulse of “Revival” continued as Cox shredded almost endlessly on the guitar in a manner shockingly similar to Jimi Hendrix between songs. It was almost a relief when Cox stopped jamming and returned to the world of the set list and slightly inebriated fans.
Throughout Deerhunter’s performance, audience members shouted requests for “Helicopter,” and Cox taunted several times that the band wasn’t going to play the popular song. In the blogosphere, “Helicopter” has received a lot of attention and recently has been the subject of several popular remixes.
I have to admit that this isn’t my favorite song off of the band’s new album, but Deerhunter surprisingly made the live rendition effective enjoyable. The electronic twang of the intro combined with Cox’s dream-like lyrics created a calm shoegaze atmosphere that was almost transcendent in the song’s calm, sad ambience.
“Desire Lines,” “Revival,” and “Helicopter” are just a sampling of the goodness of Halcyon Digest, the cover of which is black and white and has what appears to be a blonde cross-dressing dwarf looking upwards with hands in prayer. Despite its general oddity, Halcyon Digest may be one of the biggest musical contributions of the year. In all of its songs, the album has a particular liveliness that, until now, I didn’t realize I was looking for—it’s like a welcomed sigh of relief.
After listening to these and many other songs performed in the Royal Boston, I left the concert early in order to get a start on the long, midnight drive ahead. As I traced my way back to the Hill, Deerhunter echoed from the car’s stereo and I looked forward to a weekend’s sleep full of song.