Concert Reviews

Deerhunter Channeled Rather Than Exorcised Its Demons

Considering that he seemed to have no trouble navigating the stage in his usual dramatic fashion, it was difficult to tell whether or not the cane that Deerhunter's Bradford Cox wielded on stage last night at the Gothic Theatre was an unusual prop or a necessary aid to his movement. Perhaps it was partly a cheeky reference to the injury Cox experienced prior to the band's writing and recording of the album Fading Frontier.

Sporting a fedora, Cox looked a bit like Jandek Jr. while the rest of the band looked like Pavement, except for, of course, Javier Morales and Rashaan. For this performance, Deerhunter traded in some of the intense, noisy chaos of its previous tour for a more effusive yet focused spirit and energy.

Throughout the show, it seemed as though Cox was going to leave the stage and come into the crowd, but that never quite happened. The implied tension and anticipation gave the whole performance a disorienting dynamic that pulled you in and let you go at the right moments. Even when Cox feigned outrage at an “Australian” guy filming the show and the audience by telling someone to “get this insect off the stage,” it seemed as though there was an orchestration of the show's emotional experience, so that it could feel like it wasn't completely under control. Like it wasn't a performance, per se, but rather a channeling of the music.

Bookended by the title tracks from Deerhunter's two EPs, Rainwater Cassette Exchange and Fluorescent Grey, the set was an unabashed dive into the group's dream world. The anger and catharsis of Monomania, the sublime cynicism of Halcyon Digest and the pragmatic hopefulness of Fading Frontier flowed freely together and into each other for an overall effect of cleansing, even purging, the dark side of the music while honoring the feelings and experiences that created it. It felt like the band had collectively cast off a layer of the funk that had actually made its shows so powerful and found that it didn't need the psychological toxins to speak honestly.

Bitchin' Bajas opened the night with a set of jazz-inflected ambient soundscapes. But it never felt like background music, as the free-jazz elements gave the songs a sharpness. Though instrumental, the music couldn't be labeled post-rock, psychedelic rock or even rock. Instead, Bitchin' Bajas recalled Tangerine Dream and Popol Vuh, with a soothing but imagination-stirring effect.

Set List
1. Rainwater Cassette Exchange
2. Revival
3. Duplex Planet
4. Breaker
5. Dream Captain
6. Helicopter
7. T.H.M.
8. Living My Life
9. Take Care
10. Desire Lines
11. Snakeskin

12. Fluorescent Grey
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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.