Last night at Webster Hall Deerhunter flooded the sold-out venue with its psychedelic rock compositions and dynamically bipolar vocals. The smoke loomed over the crowd, part vapor and part weed, perfectly adding to the mind-bending ambience of the concert. With the surreal marriage between the visuals and music infiltrating the audience’s minds, it seemed everyone was lost in the sensory mirage.
As the band came onstage Deerhunter’s frontman, Bradford Cox, stood out amongst his bandmates due to his fashion choices of the evening. Clad in an animal print robe with a scarf wrapped around his jet-black wig, Cox easily could have passed for a ’50s housewife moonlighting as rock star. The band opened the set with an oldie, “Octet” off their debut Cryptograms; the sonar sound effects beeped ethereally as Cox wailed, swallowing the crowd. Pastel colors of blue and green flickered, while red and white lightbulbs twinkled behind the band. Throughout the show, seizure-inducing white lights flashed, fitting the incomprehensible facets of sound. After testing the crowd with a few songs, Cox and co. grabbed the audience head-on with fan favorite, Revival. The band did quite the revamping of the track, speeding the tempo up noticeably. Near the end of the song, distortion raised a few heads as Cox bellowed “Darkness always/it doesn’t make much sense.” What started out as a catchy, psych-pop track had transformed into a skin-tugging, angst-driven sound.
Fans ranging from their late 30s to those in high school all demonstrated their appreciation of the band. One of the older fans air-drummed and danced along, while singing the lyrics to just about every song (and damn, there were a lot of songs), while another let out an ecstatic cry of joy during Desire Lines. Even Cox, during his self-proclaimed “cheesy,” gushing love confession for New York City, emphasized the unique diversity among the New York fans. Following the period of the emotional connection between Cox and the crowd, he continued the theme of psychedelia to the end: a brief noise-heavy interlude and closing, ambient track Twilight. Cox crooned softly, while the lackadaisical guitar rhythm followed alongside. As with Revival, the band exaggerated the distortion levels at the end, shaking our senses with pure noise and entrapping the listener’s sense of time.
After making the audience work for their encore with five minutes of cheering and anticipation, the band made its return to perform three songs. Any fan that still had his head lost it after this. The encore opened with Agoraphobia, a slow-burner that wraps itself around the body. Ironic that this song’s title means “fear open spaces or crowded areas,” a.k.a. no comfortableness at any concert. The band closed with He Would Have Laughed, a lengthy trip down the rabbit hole. Its guitar riff, which started out infectious, eventually became a perpetual ticking-noise of sorts. As the music began to slow down and fade away, the band members, one by one, removed their gear from the stage. After his speech about how New York loved Deerhunter first, the sadness in Cox’s eyes seemed real as he said goodbye. Don’t worry Bradford, there’s always next time.
Photos by Suyi Tay.