VIDEOS/WORDS: Deerhunter – The Wiltern – Los Angeles, CA – 8/9/11

Photo by Andrew Youssef - Stereogum

Adjust yer eyes to the state of things

I arrived solo on Tuesday night still in a zombie daze from Monday night’s Phish show, and posted up on the 2nd tier of the floor to watch former LCD Soundsystem touring member and mad scientist David Scott Stone dazzle away on a modulator synthesizer for a good half-hour (see video below) to the still mostly-empty Wiltern floor. After having his back turned for roughly 25 minutes, Stone allowed crowd members to take a stab at amateur beatsmithery (word? Doubtful, but definitely should be) on his handheld synth-drum pad. Unfortunately no L.A. talent was discovered and no stars were born during this segment of the show, as the rail riders failed to keep the beat Stone had established. Dunes followed, and arms of the hipster-heavy crowd remained mostly crossed until the main attraction took the stage at the stroke of 10:30.

Photo by Timothy Norris - LA Weekly Blog

Between sets, I met up with a few new friends and headed back in to the now 80% capacity Wiltern to take in the psych-noise wonder band’s headlining set. Starting with the eerie, slow-rattling “Earthquake”, the band quickly began blanketing every inch of the Art Deco hall with sheets of overlapping sound, layering some major echo on Bradford Cox’s punkish howls over the continuous onslaught of drone guitar effects, trading moments of blinding transcendence with more uptempo, straight-laced rockers from Halcyon Digest like “Desire Lines”.

Unlike a lot of bands falling in the nebulous indie milieu, the live renditions of many of Deerhunter’s songs are nearly unrecognizable from their sterilized studio form and this quartet is eager to fly off-the-cuff and improv both vocally and musically, as evidenced on Tuesday by sprawling songs like the Microcastle peak jam “Nothing Ever Happened,” that was pushed well past the 10-minute mark. The set list was varied and different from previous shows from this summer (especially the epic Bonnaroo set and recent P4K appearance), keeping things interesting with tunes like the deep track “Wash Off” and “Little Kids” (highlight of the set).

There is no doubt the band did their darnedest to fulfill their duties but the energy-free audience created a disconnect between the stage and floor that took away from the experience a bit. After a brief and early encore break the band returned and Cox shouted out to L.A. before delivering an appropriate and straight-laced rendition of Ricky Nelson’s “Poor Little Fool” (an artist cover he sorta-maybe hinted at, when he mentioned LA as a “Lonesome Town” at the show’s outset, referencing the 50’s teen idol’s hit song) before delivering the final blow in the form of a huge “He Would Have Laughed,” bookending the show with the closing track off the band’s highly acclaimed 2010 LP.

The Verdict: Strong performance, weak crowd, great set list (minus the lack of “Helicopter”), still one of my favorite bands (in studio and on-stage).

To see a gallery of the show, check out Stereogum’s shots

Deerhunter – Little Boy

Deerhunter - Don't Cry @ The Wiltern - 8/9/2011

David Scott Stone