Deerhoof stomps the Black Cat

San Francisco band brings dancers, avante garde movies on tour

By BEN LOZOVSKY

Eagle Contributing Writer

On Saturday evening at around 11, the Earth stood still and the Black Cat sat down. Not to say that the venerable old Washington landmark took a knee; rather the confused but enthusiastic crowd at D.C.'s premier indie venue was coaxed by a foursome of dancing beauties called Leg & Pants Dans Theatre into an Indian-style campfire romp. Such brazen displays of creativity and contempt for everything normal could only be associated with San Francisco rock darlings Deerhoof. Preceded by an eclectic (quite the understatement) collection of musicians and dancers, and a set of the most traumatizingly wonderful films ever made, the cutest and most dangerous band in the world took the stage and simply mesmerized the sold-out crowd.

First came guitar virtuoso L'Ocelle Mare, followed by a laughable but endearing performance by children's-singer-on-acid Le Ton Mite, after which the aforementioned Dans Theatre wowed the crowd with experimental dance, poetry and slides. Between this festival of the unorthodox were screenings of short films by filmmaker Martha Coburn, which scalded onlookers with explicit sexuality and randomness.

How could one expect any less from a band that continues to push the boundaries of music with such reckless aplomb? The D.C. show was one of the last stops in America for Deerhoof before embarking on a worldwide tour to support their newly released and much lauded seventh studio album, "The Runners Four." Since its foundation in 1994 by drummer Greg Saunier and former guitarist Rob Fisk, Deerhoof has quietly (in actions, not in volume) made a name for itself as one of the strangest but most inspiring rock bands in existence. More recently their work has garnered the attention it deserves, as the band has been steadily picking up critical and popular acclaim since their 2003 release, "Apple O," their first album with guitarist John Dieterich. With luminous coverage in such prestigious publications as The New York Times, The New Yorker and even The Washington Post, as well as the confessed adoration of such heavyweights as Matt Groening (The Simpsons), Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Wilco, Deerhoof is finally getting noticed.

Fortunately for District stoners and art-rock connoisseurs alike, Deerhoof managed to put aside the collective drooling of the music world for one night to lay down an honest, exposed and exceptional performance. Fiercely focused but always playful, the band plowed through their set, which featured mostly songs from their latest recording with a few old classics thrown for good measure.

Never wanting to pander to convention, the band played re-envisioned versions of some of their best work, beginning with a hypnotically sped up rendition of "Running Thoughts." Continuing to stray from the norm, the monstrous opening riff of "Four" stand-out track "Wrong Time Capsule" was followed by a more seductive approach to the song, with the head-banging guitar wizardry temporarily replaced by singer/bassist Satomi Matsuzaki's endearing, high-pitched melodies and squeaks; not for too long, of course, as Dieterich eventually soared into the guitar solo with enough distortion and ear-piercing noise to disturb any innocent canines in the vicinity of the club.

As if being indefinitely original was not enough, the band never seems content with just playing their songs as they were first recorded. When they do, however, the results are just as glorious, as was the case during performance of the band's most catchy number, "Milkman." The luscious chorus transcended the chaos of Saunier's raucous drumming, highlighting the duality that is Deerhoof. Fragile, seemingly on the verge of falling apart at any moment, the band defies all odds to conjure music that defies all logic. Just like in their set-closing number, "Rrrrrrright," the band constantly balances the wild drumming, reminiscent of that of the late Keith Moon, along with the crashing harmonies of guitarists Chris Cohen and Dieterich, dropping the Satomi cherry bomb on top. Dissonance turns into confusion, just making it past goofiness, with everything teetering on the edge of insanity. Somehow, however, it just all ends up as brilliance.

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