The Runners 3

Choo choo beep beep Nathan at [email protected]

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Moving through the crowd on Tuesday night, it was immediately apparent that there was something foreign about the environment beneath the gilded rubicund canopy of the Great American Music Hall. The gathered congregation looked as though they had just jumped off the set of a Wes Anderson film, decked out in berets and turquoise scarves, parading San Francisco’s rainbow of runny colors with pride for the trio that put the Yay Area back on the map.

Okay, maybe Deerhoof didn’t put it back on the map per se, but at least they had the guts to show the world what the Bay Area’s made of: jumping pandas, leopard fur, and creepy milkmen. And with a whopping zero band members able to read sheet music, they put the ill back in illiteracy.

But before Deerhoof appeared, the crowd received an unexpectedly refreshing elbow to the face via L.A.’s finest experimental hip-hop artist Busdriver. The husky fro’d master of ceremonies exploded on stage a la Saul Williams, ripping his reading glasses off in dramatic fashion and spitting sweet nothings like “Kill Your Employer!” and “Gun Control!” for the pumped up audience. By the end of his fire-and-brimstone sermon of tightly packed diatribes (interspersed with the occasional emotional techno vocal thanks to an extra mic) no one wanted to get off the bus. As he carefully reset his bifocals and left the stage smiling, the screaming audience knew that the building riot was about to ignite into full-scale hysteria.

The trio of Deerhoof—Satomi Matsuzaki, John Dietrich, and Greg Saunier—wasted no time, immediately pumping the infectious melodies of their most recent release Friend Opportunity into the crazy veins of each and every witness, opening with the “Choo choo choo choo beep beep” of “+81” and the funkalicious “Believe E.S.P.” Both songs invited intermittent cowbell spasms from Saunier, and the rest of the night would feature brutal guitar-drum tantrums that tore apart the set and reminded each member of the audience of their first encounter with the band.

Expanded soloing on fan favorites like “Milk Man” and “Dog on a Sidewalk” sent the crowd into a freak-dancing frenzy, while Matsuzaki’s didactic gestures during the childish “Panda Panda Panda” and “Flower” inspired wild shouts of encouragement that filled the venue. The most remarkable aspect of the performance, however, was the staggering confidence of the three-piece.

Endless attempts to describe the sound of Deerhoof, ranging from Yoko-Ono-meets-skronk to Pixies-meet-a-lead-pipe, have proven useless time and time again for more than a decade. The more sententious listeners tug at their ears to test their consciousness, while even the most liberal indiers tilt their heads in bewilderment as they are introduced to Matsuzaki’s playful “dee dee dees” and “boo-bops” on top of Dietrich and Saunier’s rabid shreds. To find the most accurate analogy for the terror trio, one must imitate the band’s approach to music and return to a curious state of innocence.

Before poetry, before prose, before literacy, the developing child’s vade mecum is the coloring book. As the infant finishes the first tableaux, a sense of greatest accomplishment can be seen throughout the little glowing face. The delight produced from coloring a purple and brown Mickey Mouse remains, to this day, unparalleled. That beaming face, that delight, that slightly deranged Mickey are what Deerhoof is all about, even if they do color outside of the lines.


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