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Concert Mon Sep 27 2010

Deerhunter Kicks It Under the River

[This review and photos come to us from Taleen Kalenderian.]

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It was May of 2007 the first time I saw Atlanta-based noise rockers Deerhunter. The band was opening for Chicago's own The Ponys for their headlining slot at The Echo in Los Angeles. Cryptograms had been released that January, but I was really into The Ponys' droning garage jams then and couldn't wait to see them for the first time. Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox towered over the stage wearing a flora print mini-dress that night, singing with mic-in-mouth gripped by his teeth. He jolted around the stage along to Cryptograms' more angular tracks, putting everyone in a daze that thoroughly upstaged The Ponys' following set.

Saturday's free Deerhunter show was less about noise-making and more about fanservice and clever publicity, but that didn't make it any less entrancing. Hundreds of fans showed up early to the Chicago River underpass at 560 W. Grand, a location disclosed only a few days beforehand as part of Levi's + Urban Outfitters Secret Generator Series. Deerhunter previewed most of their new songs for the first time in advance of their third full-length album, Halycon Digest (out tomorrow).

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"It's cold today, thanks for coming out guys!" said Cox, beaming as he took the stage 20 minutes past 4pm, and repeated three or four times throughout the show. It would have been the first day this season not to have an outdoor concert in Chicago, but fans couldn't seem to care less. The band mostly switched between Halycon and Microcastle material, playing "Revival" and "Helicopter," new tracks released even before the album stream was available on NPR.

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"Desire Lines" was a gorgeous debut highlight with a cascading guitar chorus and girl group drum section--probably the closest noise equivalent to an indie rock anthem for Deerhunter fans. It was tough to imagine a generator alone was driving all the buildups of the song. Teenagers in painted faces ran around in sunglasses, adults brought their kids, and other crowd members stood on railings or sat 20 feet above ground to see the stage. The location had never been used for a concert before, but it was a perfect spot, letting the ambient noise wash below the underpass as through a tunnel--probably freaking out tenants at the condo buildings south of the stage.

Always a good feeling to know a band hasn't lost its subversive touch after they've met acclaim. Cox's personal campaign leading up to the album release was to send out a cut n' paste zine-style promo flyer to his fans, asking them to put it up in their local record shops and neighborhoods in exchange for free advance mp3s. This gesture made Saturday's show feel like an awesome callback to punk parking lot shows.

Deerhunter took some requests at the encore, playing the older "Famous Last Words"--which Cox called "FML," then cracked up and corrected while bantering with his band members and the crowd (who kept shouting "ATL! ATL!"). The hour-long set closed with "Nothing Ever Happens," and the band let the twinkling guitar lines drag at the end of the song as Cox sang out "Goodbye!"

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-Taleen Kalenderian

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

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Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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