Busdriver and Deerhoof – Irving Plaza 1/20/07

Deerhoof and busdriver – 1/26 Irving Plaza show
Category: Music

Deerhoof is one of those bands that some people say “where the hell do you hear this stuff? I’ve never heard of them” – and then proceed to ask if you have any Dave Matthews bootlegs. Others say dismissively, “Oh yeah, they’re like really popular now” and proceed to tell you about the most amazing 3-person band of 19-year-olds from a) Leeds b) south Winnipeg or c) Greenpoint. Neither of these responses is entirely accurate: lots of people have heard of them: Deerhoof has opened for Radiohead; but lots of people have no idea who Radiohead is.

And lots of peeps saw Deerhoot play to a soldout/oversold Irving Plaza on Friday night.

As Wikipedia succinctly puts it: “Deerhoof is an experimental rock band from San Fransisco. A critical favorite, their music is noted for its unconventional song structures, lyrics and rhythms.” Others would say the band layers mystifying, repetitive, little-girl psycho vocals over complicated and rather original drums and guitar.

Lead singer Satomi Matsuzaki is not to everyone’s taste – her opaque lyrics and heavy Japanese accent cross over the line from “fascinating! what does that echo/mean/suggest/connote/refer to?” to “WTF is she talking about? who the hell give a shit?” a little too often for some. Still, their sheer musicianship and offbeat, complicated interplay, stop-start rhythms, and maddening hints of melody can pull you in.

They sure pulled ’em into Irving Plaza on an icy Friday – the body-to-body crowd was a mass of head-noddin’ hipsters sweating in their winter wear, myself among ’em. This show had some serious pounding beats and fewer dissonant pop tweaks. If you’re head didn’t nod a bit you had a big stick up your butt.

I first heard Deerhoof on WOXY or KEXP.com and not been impressed, but at the free McCarren Park shows in Williamsburg, Brklyn, this summer, Satomi’s pure focus and concentrated craziness onstage had quite hooked me. Last night’s show was a lot tighter and leaner musically.

About 1/2 hour in, a bass drum head broke and started flapping. Now extra bass drums are not often carried around by little indie bands, (even if they did open for The Roots and Radiohead, they’re little) and when drummer Greg Saunier shyly came to the microphone to explain the problem, we all groaned. But they cut out the offending head and played on.

Renewing my faith in the perspicacity and incisive commentary of concert attendees, one be-hatted 20-something behind me noted carefully to his date: “Whoa, they were so intense they broke the drum. Whoa. That’s intense.”

Their new album “Friend Opportunity” is far more melodic than the last, but they ain’t no sing-along. Yet bizarre threads of “Everyday People” float thru one of the hooks in the new tunes, leading nowhere but to a bit of nostalgia and a desire to hear a bit more. Their songs are actually songs, and the mystifying no-wave thing seems a thing of the past.

John and Greg, guitar and drum respectively, took a brief turn at the mic to thank the crowd – quite sincerely too. They seemed a llittle awed and bewildered by the head-on intensity of the NYC crowd shouting “DeerHOOF, deerHOOF!” at the end. Hey, NYC crowds are intense. And so is Deerhoof. Both were a good meet-up; crowd and band were well-met at last night’s show.

The two openers:
Proton Proton featured a lead singer with vaguely Eddie Vedder-ish vocal stylings. Advice: break up or get better.

Busdriver: fuckin’ ROCKED the place. A hyper collegiate rapper with rapid-fire delivery and a great, muscular wound-up body he put to good use in service to the lyrics, busdriver just about exploded on stage.

Pals M and M and I were ensconced downstairs between bands in the little-known but highly desirable Irving Plaza “couch of sloth” when we heard the pounding from upstairs.

Every body in the place looked rather electrified as busdriver rammed thru song after song. Worth checking out in person: YouTube

doesn’t do him justice.

1:11 AM – 6 Comments – 3 Kudos – Add CommentEditRemove

Michael Mayham and the Mike

Oh man, best advice to a band I’ve ever heard:

“Break up or get better”.  Ha! That’s the second best thing actually.  The best thing I ever heard was my friend John Barry who said to someone (not me!) “You’re very good at what you do……..but what you do ain’t good!”

Yeah, you sure said it: oversold!!  It was hard to get into the show strictly because of the physical discomfort of having to stand still, bobbing your head was about all space would allow! And let’s not forget to mention ducking that guy in the brown 70’s pleather jacket who was rocking and whipping his upperbody, neck, and skull (and mane!) forward and backward, just barely missing you, me, M, and everybody else.  Amazingly, the sound man (who it turned out I knew) told me that he had actually noticed this guy from high up at the soundboard, in the back of the room, in the balcony, far away from where we were (near the front) and he told me he just fixated on this guy the entire night, singling him out of the entire crowd.  Small world.

Posted by Michael Mayham and the Mike on Sunday, January 28, 2007 at 3:00 AM
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HA! Yeah, i couldn’t decide to put in head-whipping guy but I figured, “STOP you’ve written enough!”
So thank you for getting in that excellent description.
Sound guy is too funny – he is right, that guy was mesmerizing. I bet no one who saw that guy thre will ever forget him at that concert.

btw: did some research on busdriver and his set was not deceptive – he is pretty intriguing.

Posted by Ellen on Sunday, January 28, 2007 at 9:59 AM
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Perspicacity? Oh, yeah, Keen!
I like the Deerhoof drummer, big and juicy. As to breaking drum heads, “You don’t know your limits ’til you exceed them.” W. Blake and well maybe you just gotta carry a spare.
Back in the day when The Replacements were too young to buy a beer at the bar, there was a band, MMB, had an amaaaazing chick drummer ever, they so rock’d that on a tues. nite it was wall-to-wall at the Longhorn (mpls). About the most fun I ever had dancing. They made a stab at NYC, ran into some kind of shit and they broke up. It was really sad, but I guess we all got over it.

Posted by neil on Sunday, January 28, 2007 at 7:42 AM
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Delicious Wolf

I have never heard this Deerhoof… but from that clip they sound a bit like Broken Social Scene… I’m not a fan of BSS recorded stuff… but live they are quite enchanting…

Now I must proceed to torrentspy and find some Deerhoof…

Posted by Delicious Wolf on Sunday, January 28, 2007 at 10:54 AM
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Fugazi Fan

Bass drums can also break (a) from excessive usage; perhaps the reason we don’t normally see breakage during a show is because most drummers replace their drum heads before they break; (b) cheap drum heads.

Posted by Fugazi Fan on Tuesday, January 30, 2007 at 12:14 PM
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Michael Mayham and the Mike

Just had to chime in and respond to this last comment, just to clear it up, since I happen to know the reason.

The reason the head broke is because they flew in from San Francisco and were using the opening act’s drumset.  The opening act’s drummer’s bass pedal was screwy, and the “beater” flew off in the middle of a song, and sliced open the drum head.

As you were!

Posted by Michael Mayham and the Mike on Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at 11:25 AM
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Can Jon Pareles and I think alike? the American Beauty Project

Probably not. But possibly. We both spent Sat night at the Winter Garden, where one could have observed the following:

That people born in December share many characteristics.

such as large heads.

Those born in May also can have large heads.

On Sat night in the Winter Garden, there were a LOT of Heads.

Cuz we were all part of the capacity “No one more will be allowed in!” bolt-the-doors-and-call-the-rent-a-cops crowd at Saturday night’s American Beauty Project, a celebration of the Grateful Dead at the World Financial Center Winter Garden.

A fest devoted to the Grateful Dead’s two 1970s albums, the project featured every song on Workingman’s Dead (Sat night) and American Beauty (Sun night) performed in order by a lineup of different bands, one band per song.

The crowd packed in. The Eckerd’s in the WFC featured a long snaking line of fans buying munchies and murmuring to each other “Did you go to Gathering of the Vibes, man? You have to go to the Gathering . . . it’s, like, in the desert somewhere.”

The WFC is not that kind of desert. Surrounded by Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, and other indoor mall aridities, the crowd sat on neatly arranged folding chairs and tiers of hard marble stairs – did this all contribute to the overwhelming effect of the evening? The sound SUCKED.

The song treatments blew no one away, including the hardcore fans. Ollabelle’s slow-paced “Uncle John’s Band” didn’t shed any light on this classic; nor did Larry Cambell’s (Dylan’s producer on the Neverending Tour) storytelling version of “Dire Wolf.” The Klezmatics

didn’t klezmerize the crowd with their Balkan Cumberland Blues – a shame since they can really get a crowd going, at least. I confess to complete lack of interest in Jim Lauderdale, “Black Peter,” Tim O’Reagan, and “Easy Wind” – by that time the crowd had begun to go home. In fact, back in an instrumential interstitial, when the klezmer clarinetist began an interminable noodling jam with some kind of Brazilan string thing nearby, a fellow stair sitter turned to me and said, “This is exactly the kind of shit I hate.”

The evening never seemed to get off the ground – partly due to the painfully inane and ignorant interstitials by WNYC host John Schaefer, who at one point expressed surprise that so many people had attended more than 100 Dead shows! Wow – who’d a thunk that. Only someone who had paid attention to the culture – and not even the GD culture. Paying attention to even the parodies of GD culture should have taught him that.

I was not a part of GD culture. Words similar to my fellow stair-sitter’s have passed my lips in more sour moods, tho’ I’ll admit to humming along to “Uncle John’s Band” on occasion. No more at the risk of marital and friend disharmony.

What I REALLY liked were Catherine Russell (daughter of Louis Armstrong’s music director -shouldn’t she have known better?)

and the Holmes Brothers.

The Holmes Bros have always been pretty great. Catherine Russell was excellent and clearly having fun with a soulful R&B kind of take on the GD.

Jon seemed to feel the same way. Ck out his NY Times review (thanks Ofer!)

Seems that Pareles carefully offers few, if any, judgments of quality here, but lots of workmanlike (ahem) solid musical observation.

I’m guessing he’s not a fan. Somehow a lack of enthusiasm wafts up from under the prose – see his note on the Klezmatics transplantion of their Dead tune to Eastern Europe: “where it could take on a hora interlude.” – successfully? Insightfully? Delightfully?

From the Pareles review:
“There was no discernible Dead content but plenty of sinuous melody in a long, modal, Greek-flavored improvisation allegedly based on ‘Uncle John’s Band.’ The banjo virtuoso Tony Trischka turned up with a Jerry Garcia rarity: a minor-key banjo tune, ‘Jerry’s Breakdown,’ from 1964.

Mr. Campbell on guitar and Rob Barraco on vocals (who have been in the band led by the Dead’s bassist, Phil Lesh) carried ‘Dire Wolf’ back toward ragtime picking.”

Hmm. A bit too much Botox in his prose for my taste. Smooth and flat as a starlet’s forehead.

Methinks we think alike, ol’ Jon and I.

Currently listening :
Eligible Bachelors
By Monochrome Set
Release date: By 27 May, 2004

1:54 PM – 5 Comments – 6 Kudos – Add CommentEditRemove


I have to agree that it was lackluster overall — enough so to prevent this (bald but not big) head from turning up again the next night for AMERICAN BEAUTY.

However, you have to give kudos to Railroad Earth, who did an admirable version of “Casey Jones” despite the awful sound. Of course, the Earth is used to covering the GD; they’ve played “Fire on the Mountain,” “Mississippi Half-Step,” “The Wheel,” and “When I Paint My Masterpiece” (a Dylan song the Dead covered often), among others.

Posted by twi-ny on Monday, January 22, 2007 at 5:58 PM
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You know of my deep hatred of the Grateful Dead genre, but it was well worth reading your post for the fabulous: “The Klezmatics didn’t Klezmerize the crowd.” !!!!!! Outstanding. Another triumph!

Posted by QueensGirl on Monday, January 22, 2007 at 6:04 PM
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the only time GD made any sense to me I was making no sense to anyone else, and it wasn’t cuz of Botox. Prose like a starlet’s forehead is a riot! I’m all for living with the dents in the door. Great Dead Heads!

Posted by neil on Monday, January 22, 2007 at 7:41 PM
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Delicious Wolf

A few Dead songs have a sentimental place in my heart… they make me nostalgic for simpler… more psychadelic times.  But I never could understand the whole tribute/celebration band phenomena… be it for the Dead or Pink Floyd or Motley Crue.

Posted by Delicious Wolf on Monday, January 22, 2007 at 8:10 PM
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Michael Mayham and the Mike

Ha! My favorite part is the intro to this review!!!  The heads! 🙂 Brilliant segueway into the actual review……just like a good Dead show itself!

Ok, here’s my two cents…..

I know there’s alot of this doing-gigs-of-classic-albums…..I think it was Phish (a band I’m not that conversant with) who started it off by doing the entire White Album on Halloween in the mid 90’s at some point, and -I’m not against it, I wouldn’t mind doing it myself, but- now it seems every week here in the city someone’s performing some classic album in its entirety!

Which brings us to “American Beauty”, “Workingman’s Dead” and The Grateful Dead in general.  Most Deadheads…and virtually all NON-Deadheads….will agree that making great albums was never Jerry and Company’s strong suit. So perforiming any of their albums in their entirety….to me, it doesn’t have the same kick as doing, say….a night of, say, Sgt. Pepper.  Though these two albums are generally considered their “greatest” albums (I would very much disagree), I don’t feel that they’re as potent as many other albums that were being made at the same time.  The SONGS are great…..but I prefer virtually all of them performed live, as opposed to the studio versions. So it sounds like it would have been better to have done just a night of Dead music, spanning their entire career,  and played by a bunch of different people…and not limit it to these two albums…which are pretty much strictly the “country Dead” sound. Alot of great Dead songs that only came out on Europe ’72 were written at the same time, and on Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir solo albums as well….it might have been better to have done this whole era of Dead…and limit it to country/blues/roots-rock’n’roll acts.  I wonder if all these acts loved the Dead so much, or if it was just a gig.

And John Schaeffer….love that guy but, just as you said….his cluelessness is a bit shocking! I wonder if the entire affair was plotted by non-Heads!

I’m going to be appearing next week, performing Beck’s “Odelay” album and Dylan’s “Blonde On Blonde” in their entirety at Arlene’s Grocery. (just kidding!)

Posted by Michael Mayham and the Mike on Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 2:23 PM
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An overused word in regard to NYC, perhaps, but there’s not really any good replacement.

okay, maybe overused only by word geeks and classics students, but still . . .

In the olden days, parchment (stretched and dyed sheep or goat skin) was expensive and thus sometimes reused. Palimpsests are parchment manuscripts that were used two or more times. The initial writing was scraped off, then a new manuscript was written over it. Often the parchment was turned 90 degrees, so the the new writing wouldn’t be too messed up by the old writing, which tended to peek thru or reemerge over time. Many classical manuscripts are known only or partially thru palimpsests – scholars look for readable traces of the old (often pagan i.e. Greek or Latin) manuscript under the newer (often Christian, early medieval) manuscript.

Palimpsest has come to be used for anything composed of layers of information over time. Information that is only partially obscured by new layers, or that peeks out. Voila – a perfect image for NYC streets, where facades fall to reveal the old signs beneath, posters are layered over posters and tear and wash away over time, graf gets written over and written over. Regular NYC walls.

When I first came to NYC, I worked in the Flatiron building for one of the world’s worst- paying publishers. We were paid $200 a week – $10,400 a year. In the mid-1980s.

But the Flatiron district was pretty dismal, then. Both Madison Square Park and Union Square park were full of needles, bums, and the like. There was the occasional lunchtime shootings at the lone sandwich spot on B’way, a Subway just north of Paragon Sports.

This meant there were lots of cheap places to eat. Right across the street was an Andrews Coffee Shop, Eisenberg’s, and Squires, to name just three of the greasy spoons that fueled us eager young publishing assholes with digusting hamburgers, BLTs of highly questionable LT, grilled cheeses fried in all manners of grease, and my favorite – the Squires baloney sandwich, a construction of such foulness and amplitude that one sandwich could feed me for three days – not that I ever really wanted to eat it. But as I recall, it cost $1, or $.33 a meal. That was almost as good as the 4/$1 Kraft mac and cheese deal.

Squires, which shared more than its first three letters with “squalid” disappeared years ago. I forgot about it and its life-sustaining (or shortening) baloney sandwiches. I came back to the area. Across the street from the Flatiron building was a large Italian deli called Marino’s, which was replaced by one of sketchiest of Asian delis I have ever frequented.

This deli was staffed by the sullen and stocked with Potemkin villages of unbought, unsought cereal boxes, soy nuts, Pringles, rice cakes, Nescafe jars, and more. Towering dustily over the pallid salad bar, the walls of boxes gradually faded and sagged toward history. I bought and returned at least two cartons of moldy yogurt there before quitting the place entirely. It was cursed. The deli closed and opened several times in the last year alone, each time gathering another “Closed by Order of the Marshall” sticker on the door.

Finally, it closed up shop entirely. Workers were seen emptying the place, probably shipping the dusty Pringles, Cocoa Puffs, and Count Chocula off to some hungry Belarussians.

I walked by last week and there it was:

The aluminum and canvas canopies were gone, and suddenly the continuity of evil food and business failure in the place all made sense. It was Squires.

I just hope they don’t open a sushi place there now.

musical flypaper – New Young Pony Club and Fiery Furnaces

Back in Dec, due to my bizarre knowledge of trivia, I wound up among the wall-to-wall bodies packed into a sweaty firetrap of a photography studio/art space in W’burg called the White Room, listening to the

New Young Pony Club

at the Modular Monthly party. (Um, note to promoter – art space my ass, it’s an friggin’ whitewashed BASEMENT. Maybe get a STAGE next time?)

Modular is an indie record label. I won the tix w/ an answer to some trivia question on Flavorpill.com. I don’t even remember what the question was. (Alas, my head is not so much a well-ordered filing cabinet as a collection of flypaper – stuff just sticks to the various rolls. But not all the flies get caught.)

The basement was packed with the geeks and freaks of w’burg.
There was no coat check, no dance floor, no stage, and one tiny bar at the far end of a U-shaped room.
There were lots of sweaty people with coats, incessant aimless motion sometimes barely aimed toward the bar and sometimes not, and no dancing. Except for one completely tweaked German guy. Of course.

Anyway, I wanted to see these guys. The New Young Pony Club is British – sort of punky, sort of new wave – they’ve been classified as a New Rave band. (According to wikipedia, new rave is an NME term – kind of “a joke that got out of hand.” I’ll buy that.) With a woman drummer and a great lead singer, Tahita Bulmer, NYPC has some decent British buzz, not to mention a myspace profile.

Despite the anomie of the White Room crowd, who chatted and shoved and milled about thru most of the show, coolly checking out each other, each other’s clothes, and each other’s friends – everything but the band, in fact – the show was pretty good. Tahita’s performance was pretty raw – kinda drunk, very loud, very fast.
Here’s video of them from the White Room show doing their ‘hit,’ “Ice Cream”:

Now here’s the official video for that song from Modular:

Now that’s video flypaper – they seem to have caught some flies from nearly every high-concept 80s video ever seen on U-68, especially early hilarious Cars videos and the immortal “Victim of Love” chicks on keyboards. Tahita’s hairstyles alone manage to quote B-52s beehives, Pat Benatar’s perm, and side-of-the-head-shaved punk chicks. (Having worn an asymmetrical hairdo myself in the 80s, I approve of that one.)

Then this past Friday, thanks to a friend, I got to see the Fiery Furnaces at the soon-to-close Northsix. (Yet another firetrap. Let’s just hope I don’t see Great White in one of these places.) What a show – opened with Michael Mayhem and the Mike (Michael Goodman – the Fiery Furnaces new drummer – and some pals. Definite fun!) and Emergency Party – a pretty standard rock ‘n’ roll outfit led by a Jack Black-style singer.

Matt and Eleanor Friedlander are the brother and sister who are the Fiery Furnaces. I saw them open for Wilco at Radio City about a year ago, and wasn’t too impressed. Their stuff sounded difficult and off-putting, without much point. Snippets of all their experimental stuff wound into one long jagged performance. But they were definitely intriguing.

Friday night’s show was GREAT tho’. First off, the sibs have excellent semi-matching haircuts and some crazy energy on stage.

Live and up close, Eleanor immediately calls to mind Patti Smith – the same build, look, and urgency of delivery. The same disregard/regard for the crowd. Maybe a little of that possessed, shaking, fey/shy Girl Interrupted persona, but not too much. And Matt was quite fine – his crazy blue eyes rolling and peeking out from the thick bangs every three minutes or so – was fantastic on the keyboards, conjuring up tasty Farfisa sounds and pounding operatic blasts as needed.

Since the days of the Buttholes, I’ve always been partial to the two-drummer thing. Drummer Michael Goodman on bongos, coconut shells, and more (as well as ‘normal’ drums) was not only the source of my free ticket (Thanks, Mike!) but also a fantastic performer. The Furnaces found him on the web, checking out his site, then calling him from their tour on Australia – and it worked out great.

Both these bands – better live than on CD. Stick that on the flypaper, and get out and enjoy ’em!

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