Concert Reviews

Deafheaven at Marquis Theater, 2/16/14

DEAFHEAVEN at MARQUIS THEATER | 2/16/14 There was some real emotional heft to Deafheaven's set at the Marquis last night that was more visceral than most mere post-rock. Musically it felt like a fusion of black metal and a late '90s post-hardcore, even treading into emo territory. The heaviness was there aplenty, but there was also an expansive melodicism swimming though the dense distorted sounds. Singer George Clarke, meanwhile, gestured grandly but with a keen sense of playfulness. Even when he pierced the space in front of him with a sharp, intense gaze at the beginnings of songs or as the band built up to its next crescendo, he beckoned everyone to come forward, like we were all in on some secret, shared moment of cleansing catharsis.

See also: Deafheaven's George Clark: "It's hard writing a pop song. People underestimate that term"

Though Deafheaven played only five songs in its set, which clocked in at a little over an hour, the band maintained a heightened emotional state pretty much beginning to end, even in the more meditative moments in each song. Clarke struck dramatic poses, gestured as though conducting the music and had expressions of menace and peace bordering on transcendence -- it was all very theatrical, but there was an undeniable core of honest emotion coursing through it all that was almost shamanistic in its effect. In that way, it often felt like Clarke was drawing on the energy of the crowd and radiating it back in a near constant cycle.

"Vertigo" was Cure-like with a dreamlike melody in the beginning that of course veered off in a completely different direction by the end. "The Pecan Tree" was slathered with the My Bloody Valentine-esque "glide guitar" technique, particularly in the middle of the song; it was like an oil droplet on water drifting across the rushing flow of the driving rhythm section.

And that's where the show would have ended, with a series of builds, peaks, ebbs and flows of sound and emotion in rapid escalations and in drifting slow motion. But Clarke came back on and told us the band had time for one more song. The tune was "Unrequited," from the Roads to Judah album, and once again Deafheaven delivered a shining, shifting monolith of song that came crashing down repeatedly until the music was over.

Earlier in the evening, SubRosa opened the show with a darker sound than what would follow. More moody, but not short on the builds that came down hard, the sound palette from which the five-piece Salt Lake City act drew from was considerably different. Two violins, a guitar, a bass and drums made for an unpredictable dynamic that defied any notion that this band is some doom outfit. Rebecca Vernon at times recalled Diamanda Galas in her ability to sing with an emotive, melodic beauty while imbuing the vocals with an unsettling yet alluring quality. The music was a little bit of heavy neo-folk with more than a penchant for disorienting, cthonic psychedelia.


Deafheaven Marquis Theater - 2.16.14 Denver, CO

1. Dream House 2. Sunbather 3. Vertigo 4. The Pecan Tree


5. Unrequited


Bias: I wasn't sold on Deafheaven until fairly recently. When I first heard the music I thought I'd heard this sort of thing before. But after revisiting Sunbather earlier this year, what the band is doing and going for became more clear, and it's not what I had previously assumed; it was a lot more interesting. Random Detail: Ran into Lisa Prank, Gregg Ziemba of Rubedo, former Weed Diamond guitarist/singer Timothy Perry and 7th Circle Music Collective guru Aaron Saye at the show. By the Way: SubRosa's album More Constant Than The Gods is one of the best records put out last year.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.