This past Friday the 13th turned out to be a bad moon rising at Royale for Deerhunter.
The first thing working against the Atlanta indie band was that this was an early show at the recently-opened Theater District nightclub, which borrows from Avalon's old business model of having a concert just after dinner and clearing out the room for a late-night dance party that draws an etirely different crowd. And well, don’t you know at 9:30 p.m. on the nose Deerhunter was virtually killed as Royale was ritualistically converted to Royale with Cheese as the leather couches came rolling out.
Despite the 6:15 p.m. start to accommodate openers Kurt Vile and K-Holes, the small but respectable crowd was enjoying dinnertime beers in the dimly lit Royale well before the main attraction took the stage.
Sadly though, Deerhunter could not get their shit together with the sound as they wasted a good 15 to 20 minutes of their stage time trying to get all of their line-checking and microphones in order. Deerhunter leader Bradford Cox entertained the crowd with a freestyle narration of each instrument as it was being repetitiously tested: “You are now listening to the snare drum. The snare drum originated in France. It is the only thing to ever originate in France. Except for pancakes.” As this dragged on it seemed apparent that for the size of the crowd and the amount of time there was to play with, the sound was definitely good enough, especially considering what Deerhunter does in terms of cacophony.
So finally after waiting around as long as you have waited around to get to this part of the review, Deerhunter began their sparklefest short set. Four of nine songs played were new, and most likely off the forthcoming Halcyon Digest album due next month. New songs included lead-single “Revival,” as well as one recognized in the Halcyon Digest track-listing called “Fountain Stairs.” The four-piece took a while to warm up, working through the sound problems and the new songs through the early part of their set, while touching on a couple of familiar songs like “Hazel Street” from Cryptograms and “Never Stops” from Microcastles.
Things didn’t really gel until Deerhunter stretched things out in terms of song duration and noisy dynamics with “Wash Off” and “Fluorescent Grey.” Quite positively, they are the best at what they do when they are doing it. Wistfully-hypnotic, spiritual-o-poppy jams with Bradford Cox’s tremendously pretty and boyish voice skittering through a delay box and reverberating over the bands celestially twinkling grooves.
At 9:30 and as Top 40 played over the intercom and cocktail waitresses whirled about, the show was not over. Cox was kind enough to sit on the edge of the stage for the next half-hour, snapping photos and exchanging hugs/convos with his fans. If there was a Rockville outside of Maryland, Bradford Cox could run for mayor as one of the nicest, most genuine, and sweetly dorkiest people you are likely to meet. Shaking-hands, kissing babies, and dropping hints of the forthcoming LP as well the promise of a Boston return in October.
Maybe that one will cater more to the late-night rock crowd.
Deerhunter photo by Barry Klip