When Deerhoof comes to Chicago, it’s no ordinary occasion. The San Francisco-based band has been in operation for over twenty years and has toured with such bands as Beck and Radiohead. They’ve released twelve full-length albums, each drawing from disparate genres including noise rock, indie pop, and modern jazz. Deerhoof played Lincoln Hall last Monday night, joined by the People Get Ready and The Delphines, and the performance ranged from lighthearted to downright crazed.
The band opened with “Dummy Discards a Heart” off their 2004 release, Milkman. The guitars, played by John Dieterich and Ed Rodriguez, were bright and clear, falling in and out of harmony with one another. Satomi Matsuzaki sang with childlike excitement while dancing around the stage and playing the bass. The drummer, Greg Saunier, was bent over a sparse kit, pounding heavily on the kick and hi-hat. The band’s polished exterior was met by an innocent spontaneity, making them impossible not to love.
Much of their set consisted of songs off their newest release, Breakup Song. These tracks tended to be mellow and poppy. They highlighted the band’s ability to write coherent, often challenging melodies that intertwined drums, guitar, and vocals in dizzying ways. Some of the stronger performances included “Zero Seconds Pause” and “The Trouble with CandyHands” which held a great deal of free-jazz improvisation.
The band played a good handful of tracks from their older albums as well. “The Perfect Me,” off 2007’s Friend Opportunity, was one of the highlights of the evening. The tune was highly recognized by the audience and was met by dancing and singing along. Another was “Chandelier Searchlight” off 2008’s, Offend Maggie. Played cool and jazzy, the performance was soothing after a series of harsher tunes.
Their encore was the opener to Breakup Song, “Breakup Songs,” which worked well to close out their set. Matsuzaki’s vocals were fierce, Saunier’s drumming choppy and confident, Dieterich and Rodriguez’s guitars triumphant and loud. At the chorus, the audience sang along, “Oh Yeah Yeah Yeah,” and when the song ended, the band received thunderous applause.
When Deerhoof comes to Chicago, it’s no ordinary occasion. The band graced its audience with confidence gleaned from twenty years of music making. They performed with an energy unlike any other; silly and playful while highly focused. Their music was not pretentious or forced. It was natural, an element rarely seen in today’s music culture. While the music was sparkling, the crowd energy was lackluster. Few people were dancing, head banging, or moving much at all. The stasis in energy did not dampen the evening however, as Deerhoof can please almost any crowd and have a hell of a lot of fun while doing it.