Deerhunter at Cat’s Cradle – September 22, 2013

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In 2001 Bradford Cox formed Deerhunter with drummer Moses Archuleta. Cox’s high school friend, guitarist Lockett Pundt, joined the Atlanta based outfit soon thereafter. The self described “ambient punk” band underwent a lineup change before their fifth studio release; this summer’s acclaimed Monomania. Josh McKay replaced the bassist, and Frankie Broyles was brought on for more guitar. The Monomania tour started in May and the Cat’s Cradle show on September 22 would be their last show in the states before extending the tour to Europe. But a couple of days before playing the Cradle, Deerhunter announced that due to family circumstances, they regrettably had to cancel the European dates.

I went to the Cradle show. Crystal Stilts opened. It was the first time I’ve seen Deerhunter. Here’s a transcription of the notes I took:

During the first two Crystal Stilts songs, Bradford Cox is mingling in the crowd. Arms folded. Not moving too much. He taps his right leg to the bass. He’s the first one around to clap when they finish a song. He moves further into the crowd to be center stage. Once people behind him become aware of him, they take pictures and the flash makes him turn his head. The keyboardist tells a rambling not funny joke and then the vocalist acknowledges Cox in the crowd, says, “Hey Brad.” Cox goes out of the crowd and to the back of the stage.

When Crystal Stilts finish, Cox reappears to sound check his band’s instruments. He’s precise. He’s taking his time. There’s complications. He puts a finger to his lips. He shushes the crowd. They’re cheering. They’re excited to see him. Once everything is in Cox’s order, he leaves the stage.

The rest of Deerhunter comes out. And Cox is the last to come on. He says, “Hey everybody.” They go straight into dropping the bass sample in “Earthquake.” It’s heavy. It’s heaving. It’s slow motion. Like something’s turning on. Like something’s coming up from the deep. But Cox restarts the song, says the bass is “not quite up enough.” “Let’s get that loud,” he says. Then the floor shakes. And Lockett Pundt’s guitar swims, making erratic circles. And there’s an awareness that the feeling in the room  at that moment will never exist again in time. Cox grabs the mic and puts one leg on the speaker in front of him. In the swell of it all he sings, “Do you bone the sheets? Do you think of me?” and he rubs his penis. At the end of the song he says, “Thank you.”

They play “Neon Junkyard” next. Cox explains that it’s the last night of the tour. “It’s exciting to go home to our families and dogs and cats,” he says. And then he says that they’ll take requests all night. “It’s a casual Sunday,” he says. Everyone screams. Cox hears someone say “Lake Somerset” and the band goes straight into it. Josh McKay’s bass trudges though all the thick reverb. Someone requests “Cryptograms” next. And everyone falls into a dizzy psych-out. On “Don’t Cry” Cox shouts the last chorus, forcing all his power on the word “out.” On “Revival” no one cares that there isn’t a piano.

When someone requests “Little Kids” Cox questions it. “Little Kids? You want Little Kids?” Cox asks, “Ok, we can do that.” The crowd sways with chill vibes, until it’s over and everyone shouts song titles louder than before. Cox tells them to quiet down so he can hear them. He says, “We’re gonna get them all, we’re gonna play until 4 am.” Someone requests “Operation.” “Here’s a song you all know and love,” Cox introduces the track, “it’s a song by the Beets.” But it’s not by the Beets. Everyone dances to how sexy and dark “Operation” is.

Everything gets hushed when they start to play “Hazel Street.” McKay gently opens it with a simple bass line and right before Cox joins with his voice someone in the crowd laughs. “Stop,” Cox says, “Someone is laughing during my emotional song.” “Who was that?” he asks. It was someone in front of center stage. Cox sees him and says, “Go back to college and become an accountant.” “Let me handle the fucking emotions,” he says to him. McKay starts again and Cox folds his arms and says, “I’m not gonna sing the emotional part.” He finally does.

Someone requests “Punk (La Vie Anterieure).” Cox explains that it’ll sound shitty with just one bass. That on the record there’s two basses. He says it’ll be the first time they play it on tour. The crowd keeps asking for it. “What do y’all care about?” Cox asks them. “Tomorrow I’ll be playing with a dog, that’s all I care about,” Cox answers himself. But they play “Punk” and Cox is right. It does not sound as good as it does on Monomania.

They play “Dream Captain” next and the crowd gets pumped. Someone requests “Helicopter” and people yell in agreement. “That’s a fucked up song,” Cox tells them. The middle of the song is extended, sweeping into an ambient dream. There’s tinkling. It’s pretty. It’s creepy. There’s claps that feel like they echo out forever. And Cox and Pundt play off of each other, their guitars almost touch. Pundt beats the strings of his guitar with his fist. And Cox plucks out disjointed distortion.

As the sample of the track finishes playing out, Cox hand spells out to the rest of the members that they’ll play “T.H.M.” next, like you’d dance to “Y.M.C.A.” Moses Archuleta grabs himself and McKay another beer before they start. When Cox sings “T.H.M” he leans on the mic at “M.”

Someone requests “Sleepwalking.” “That’s more of a closing song,” Cox tells them. They take someone’s “Desire Lines” request instead. “Let Lockett sing you a song,” Cox says. And comes forward to fully face the crowd for the first time. It’s hypnotizing. His guitar climbs, lingers, and get’s lost in the jam that ends the song. They play “Nothing Ever Happened” next. And then Cox asks Frankie Broyles what year he was born. He says 1992. Cox says , “I think that might have been the first year I jizzed.” Everyone laughs. “I am so self indulgent,” Cox says.

Then they play “Twilight at Carbon Lake.” It’s a slow sad song. It’s a warped waltz. The guitar gently unfurls, continuously winding.  Then during the second chorus, Cox’s distorted “Ahhs” drown in Archuleta’s hard drum rolls and crashing cymbals. And everyone has been taken under.

Cox leaves the stage first, followed by the rest of the band. For their encore, they play “Sleepwalking” and go right into “Back to the Middle.” And then they conclude with the elegant bad taste of  “Monomania.” During the drudging bass and squealing guitars, everyone dronely chants “Mono mono mania” over and over, until Cox goes off stage. And at the end of the night, Cox takes pictures with fans.

A couple of days later on Instagram he posts a picture of his dad at a UGA football game.

 

Set List:

Earthquake (opener of Halcyon Digest, 2010)

Neon Junkyard (opener of Monomania, 2013)

Lake Somerset (Cryptograms, 2007)

Cryptograms (Cryptograms, 2007)

Don’t Cry (Halcyon Digest, 2010)

Revival (Halcyon Digest, 2010)

Little Kids (Microcastle, 2008)

Operation (Weird Era Cont, 2008)

Hazel Street (Cryptograms, 2007)

Punk (La Vie Anterieure) (Monomania, 2013)

Dream Captain (Monomania, 2013)

Helicopter (Halcyon Digest, 2010)

T.H.M. (Monomania, 2013)

Desire Lines (Halcyon Digest, 2010)

Nothing Ever Happened (Microcastle, 2008)

Twilight at Carbon Lake (Microcastle, 2008)

Encore:

Sleepwalking (Monomania, 2013)

Back to the Middle (Monomania, 2013)

Monomania (Monomania, 2013)

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