live review

Deerhunter - San Francisco Bath House, Wellington (16.06.09)

Deerhunter - San Francisco Bath House, Wellington (16.06.09)

June 16 2009
The San Francisco Bath House, Wellington

Reviewed by Paul Gallagher
29th March 2010

There isn't much that can be said about a Deerhunter live show if you don't include a vast array of gushing superlatives. Let me just begin by saying this: I went to SFBH after a hard day at my desk following weeks of being wracked by glandular fever and throat infections, and left feeling remarkably pleased with life after an astounding performance by one of my favourite bands from recent years.

"We're Deerhunter, and this is the farthest from home we've ever played."

Those were the words with which Bradford Cox launched into the hazy opening chords of his first ever Wellington show. After a fairly tepid intro, the superatives began as they crashed through an awe-inspiring rendition of "Never Stops" before seamlessly easing through the rest of an incredibly well-performed set. Highlights included the obvious tracks that many of the crowd were there to hear: "Nothing Ever Happened" and "Saved By Old Times" from last year's stunning release Microcastle / Weird Era Cont. were particularly good, as were tracks from their Fluorescent Grey and the newly released Rainwater Cassette Exchange EPs.

Deerhunter are a band that is followed by media hype about acts' displays of cross-dressing, self harm and torrents of blood. But on this night the band let their music mark the performance. Cox's voice held remarkably well outside of the studio setting. Drummer Moses Archuleta has to be one of the more talented and disciplined drummers I've ever seen play. Lockett Pundt (who also performs as Lotus Plaza and is responsible for writing the music on some of Deerhunter's best-loved tracks such as "Like New"), and Josh Fauver seemed focussed and obliging to deliver the crowd a good night out. And they did. Track after track of saturated, ambient and dischordant charm were laid over the bar ebbing and flowing in fine balance between the standout tracks and lighter moments reminiscent of Cox's solo work, Atlas Sound.

Bradford Cox really opened up to the crowd before the end of the set, explaining and apologizing needlessly to both the crowd and his bandmates for his sickness and his self-described 'shitty' voice. He'd spent the night wrapped in a thick jacket, despite the toasty warmth generated by the throng of the clearly enthusiastic fanbase present. With the sickness thing I could relate. Not only have I been getting over the troubles of glandular fever, I had spent part of my day touring the swine flu assessment centre at Wellington hospital with other eager-eyed and hyped up media hounds. Almost at the height of winter, the season's ills and sicknesses can mount up and build onto you with seemingly unrelenting pressure. Such thoughts were trailing through me as the band threw themselves into one my favourite songs of 2008 - 'Agoraphobia'. For a song that's about being buried alive for the fear of being free and wide open spaces, it was just what I felt like hearing. Fan favourite 'Operation' and the title track of Microcastle followed in what was an incredible closing few minutes of an amazing evening out.

A friend of mine in Auckland said that seeing them was definitely one of the top five shows she'd ever been to. And given my buzz on the night walking home from SFBH in the cold winter's air, and the staying power that its had over the last few days I am inclined to agree.

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