Devendra Banhart: Long-Haired Freaky People

Picture this scene for an encore: a long-haired, bearded group of freaky musicians named Hairy Fairy, fronted by a long-haired, bearded freaky guitarist named Devendra, who’s singing a song about a schizophrenic pedophile hermaphrodite that wants to marry little boys, with the band’s friends and members dancing and falling all over the stage, girls being picked up from the ground and inverted in potential suplex positions, awkward group hugs…

…And oh yeah, two dudes, one long-hair with total plumber’s butt and a leather vest and one boyish dude with a bowl cut that looked like Marco Benevento, stripping and groping each other’s asses in the center of the stage’s mayhem. It was basically a crystal meth and Viagra carnival up there. Hmm, not a bad way to close a show.

It was that kind of night at Webster Hall, as two friends and I went down to see indie folk rocker Devendra Banhart and his band of likely heroin addicts. All three of us had seen him before, but the two of them had seen the seemingly homeless musician since he added an electric flavor and a full band behind him; I had not.


This move isn’t quite on par with Bob Dylan going from acoustic to electric with the help of four Canadians and a Levon, but it was a welcome addition to see Devendra with a solid back-up band and some extra voltage. It seems like he’s on his way to becoming a star amongst a scene I can’t categorize, and this is clearly a necessary step for him. He’s got some rockin’ tunes now, and he still can kick them offstage to play some acoustic stuff for the crowd. Throw in some stream-of-consciousness witty banter in between songs and you’ve got yourself an enjoyable evening.

The highlight of the night, however, was when Devendra called a random kid out of the crowd (like a magician and his volunteer) to play an original song while the band took a quick break. Apparently he’s doing this at all his shows, and it’s a pretty cool move. Devendra picked out this kid, who identified himself as Andrew. The band left, Andrew said he wrote this song when he was 12, and busted into a catchy little tune with a simple-chord progression that brought the house down. Seriously, I think the biggest applause of the night went to this kid, who couldn’t have been older than maybe 20. Kudos bar to you, Andrew, definitely my favorite part of the evening.

The band came back out for another 45 minutes or so, and they continued to try and pick up what I thought was a pretty laid-back crowd. I left impressed, but for some reason, not quite as impressed as I was the last night I saw him solo. Good times, though, I give the night a B-plus. But I give the encore five gold stars and a smiley.

Games Notes
Here are some pics and a quick review from a fellow blogger who hit up last night’s show at Webster Hall — and here’s a review from Brooklyn Vegan, which seems to be everywhere (great website if you’re a music fan) …

I’ve stood next to the drunkest girl in the room at seven or eight of the last 10 shows I’ve attended. I’m not kidding and I’m not exaggerating. Why me? What did I do to get the screaming, falling, spilling, drooling, elbowing, excitable girls to bother me all night? Is this God’s way of telling me to commit some sort of assault? That’s not such an intelligent design …

We walked in for the last 20 minutes of Tarantula A.D.’s set, one of the worst musical performances I’ve ever witnessed. In my review of the last Devendra show, I kinda enjoyed Tarantula, but between February and last night, they really forgot how to be good. Maybe it’s because they added the letters A.D. after their name, which I later remarked stood for “Additional Dogshit” …

At one point in Tarantula’s set, Lukas says, he looked back at me and I had a really strained look on my face, like I had just eaten a whole lemon and been kicked in the balls. The five people around me also had that look on their face, he claims. Not a good night for those guys …

Devendra & Co. will be in Vegoose next week, so if you’re going, make sure to check out his set at the fairgrounds …

After the show, Devendra asked if anyone wanted to come on stage and tell some jokes or “do their thing.” One kid took a shot at it, playing some song on Devendra’s acosutic guitar. As the room started to clear (in all fairness, it was 12:20 and the show was over), someone yelled out “Way to clear the room,” which was almost immediately followed by “You’re no Andrew.”

Bonus Songs of the Day: Obviously we’ll sample some Devendra today…it’s a whole different vibe live, and he’s a pretty funny guy in between songs, so you won’t get a good feel, but this is his music. Last night’s highlight, Long Haired Child; the encore, Little Boys; and an acoustic number I’ve now seen twice, Little Yellow Spider