A fantastic fall of shows for me continued on Tuesday night as I visited 9:30 yet again for an absolutely wonderful set from Deerhunter while getting my New Jersey quota filled by Ducktails, not to mention some sick beats from Casino vs. Japan and house DJ music from Geologist of Animal Collective fame.
At my arrival, I spotted multiple people that I had seen at No Age and Titus Andronicus previously and slid into the second row right in front of the table that was set up for Ducktails. Geologist had some sick jams flowing through the speakers, and I was ready to get the night started.
I’d seen Deerhunter before on the No Deachunter Round Robin tour back in August 2009 at Brooklyn Bowl in New York, but that was at 1:00 a.m. and I was absolutely exhausted. It was still amazing, but I wanted to see them again. The release of Halcyon Digest confirmed the fact that I did need to see Bradford Cox and company in the near future. As for Ducktails, Anna has had most most of the Fresh Heirs coverage on one Matt Mondanile under wraps (see here, here, here, here, here, and here) so this was uncharted territory for me. I’d seen Real Estate twice this year (once at Rock & Roll Hotel, again at Ottobar) so I was familiar with Mondanile, but I’d never had the privilege of the one man Ducktails experience.
Mondanile took the stage around 8:00 p.m. and launched into music that Anna says can only be described as a dream. I enjoyed the loops and the backbeats immensely. There’s something about beats that actually sound like computers as opposed to being incredibly realistic. It gives the music another layer and makes it sound more childlike and simplified. And while I’m not schooled enough in Ducktails to be able to tell the various instrumental songs apart, I enjoyed them. The high point for me came at the end with the closing couplet of “House of Mirrors” and “Killing the Vibe.” Mondanile added a little Family Portrait shoutout into “House of Mirrors” with Family Portrait’s Evan Brody in attendance. “Killing the Vibe” was a great clap-a-long/sing-a-long and a solid end of the set, making me look forward to Ducktails III: Arcade Dynamics this fall.
After Ducktails set off the evening, Casino vs. Japan showed up for some one man laptop electro. The set started off a little sluggish and the effects of five hours of sleep were starting to catch up to me. But as the set went on with Bradford Cox watching from the backstage balcony, the drum beats got more addictive and the crowd got more into it. By the end of his set, I was a little disappointed to see him and his beats leave.
Then it was time for what we’d all been waiting for: Deerhunter. Bradford, Locket, Josh, and Moses. The band took the stage and opened with “Basement Scene” from Halcyon Digest before going into my personal favorite on the new album, “Desire Lines,” which featured Locket’s vocals. It was an absolutely beautiful rendition, but also highlighted the disadvantage to my vantage point in the second (and soon to be first) row: the vocals had trouble coming through and the majority of the sound I got was bass. It got better as the show went on, but it wasn’t absolutely detrimental to the experience.
After “Desire Lines,” the NPR photographer that was occupying the front row space directly in front of me left, and I was able to sneak in right in front of where Josh was standing. It was surreal being so close. Later in the set, he even had the girl standing next to me tie his shoe after it came untied, something I’d never seen at a show before and something that I thought was incredibly cool.
The set progressed with “Hazel Street,” my personal favorite that I was so disappointed Deerhunter didn’t play during No Deachunter “Never Stops,” and “Rainwater Cassette Exchange.” “Never Stops” was just one of the best songs I’d ever seen live with Bradford’s voice being so pure and so on and every juncture, while the new live version of “Rainwater Cassette Exchange” is irresistible.
The set a solid mix of songs from Halcyon Digest along with 2008’s Microcastle. Halcyon Digest tracks “Don’t Cry” (which was dedicated to Ducktails), “Revival,” and “Memory Boy” showcased the talent present on the new album and the depth in all of the songs. Later in the set, the band added “Fountain Stairs” in addition to Microcastle‘s “Little Kids,” both which, expectedly, were solid.
The show was epic so far, but the closing is what made the performance for me. Cox and the gang closed with “Nothing Ever Happened,” “Helicopter,” and “He Would Have Laughed,” which are three of the greatest songs that Deerhunter has ever recorded. “Nothing Ever Happened” was its typical extended jam, while Cox was able to capture all of the emotion present on the record for “Helicopter.” Finally, “He Would Have Laughed” was so full and just so amazing, something that you just wouldn’t think listening to it on the record. It was arguably the greatest song of the night in its extended free-flowing form.
The band disappeared for a brief encore break before returning for “Spring Hall Convert” and “Fluorescent Grey,” both of which left the audience entranced and enthralled. It was an amazing closing to a fantastic show.
My one regret about the show was not grabbing any merch, as Deerhunter had shirts for $10 and $15 which is such a good deal for the road. But alas, there’s always next time. Hopefully.
NPR was at the show and you can listen to it here, which I’d totally recommend. Plus, download it too. And try to find me in one of the concert pictures.