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Review Mon Nov 11 2013

Review: Destroyer Inspires @ Old Town School

By Stuart Ross

I missed Destroyer at Pitchfork in 2011. Though disappointed, I knew he'd eventually be back in town, and in a more breathable setting than dusty Union Park in the soupy July heat. That's because Destroyer's music demands a darkened, climate-controlled space, with dimmed floor lights. There, I told myself, is where his inwardness would burn brightest, with only an acoustic guitar and microphone to amplify his coal-fired voice.

Chirp Radio knew this too, because they secured the ideal venue for last Thursday's show: the Old Town School of Folk Music.

The show began with a Thax Douglas poem about a confused flower. Destroyer (aka Dan Bejar) ambled in from stage right, wearing charcoal-gray slacks and a laundered peasant's blouse, the stage floor carpet muffling the footfalls of his boots. Destroyer is tall, a shade-producing height, and very neat, not a thick hair misplaced in his spiral curl updo. He was greeted with mannered applause from the equally well-dressed crowd.

Destroyer took a short bow after each tune, and then studied his crib sheet of chord progressions before moving into the next. His laid-back stage presence personifies one of his finest lyrics: "visualize success, but don't believe your eyes."

Destroyer didn't play "Jackie" on Thursday night, but he did play a generous set, including highlights from 2010's marvelous Kaputt — music so evocative of driving aimlessly down streets with Spanish names that listening to it is the easiest way to be in Los Angeles, minus the chore of parking there — and a few older favorites ("songs from the 90s," he called these) including selections from what is arguably his finest, most focused work, the song-cycle Streethawk: A Seduction.

When you spend 70 minutes listening to Destroyer, your mind makes fresh connections. His lyrics certainly help you along. They allude, often in the same breath, to everything from labor relations to Pink Floyd, the music industry to Werner Herzog, never-ending Septembers, the battle of art for art's sake, new notebooks, and especially, as one of his song titles suggests, school and the girls who go there. Or more precisely female names, something his drinking game accidentally left out. I kept tabs on the names of females mentioned, including, but not limited to, the following appellations:

• a Tabitha, who is taking another stab at radiance;
• a Karen, crawling back into her shell;
• a Mary Jane;
• a Susan, (from a song he didn't play, but I'll include here because I wanted him to);
• an Ava, whose got a beautiful face;
• a Helena, from the song named after her; and
• a Candice, a painter, daubing European oils.

In Edmund White's novel The Beautiful Room is Empty — a title that reminds me so much of Destroyer — the narrator, a budding hipster in the early 1960s, quickly learns it's not cool to call a painter merely an artist, you must call a painter a painter.

Destroyer is that kind of artist. He creates an emotional sense of déjà vu, as the best poetry often does. Even though Thursday night was my first concert at Old Town, Destroyer made me feel like I'd been there before.

Setlist (unofficial)

My Favorite Year*
Your Blood
The Chosen Few
Downtown
New song from Five Spanish Songs
Helena
Foam Hands**
New Song***
European Oils
The Music Lovers
Chinatown
The State****
To the Heart of the Sun on the Back of the Vulture, I'll Go
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Streethawk II


Encore*****

Savage Night at the Opera
Don't Become the Thing you Hated


Notes:

*Yelled out at the close of the show by either a sardonic, forgetful, or late-arriving concertgoer. Destroyer replied: "I played that already."

**After repeating the refrain over a dozen times, Destroyer chided the audience with: "that was called Foam Hands."

***A promising new tune in which a girl on Easy Street gathers up her clothes.

****Introduced as "another protest song."

***** Destroyer referenced a friend who may or may have not been in the audience as someone "disgusted by the charade of the encore" and hinted that he may agree with his friend. He also suggested, rather provincially, that the encore "might be a Chicago thing."

 
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Anonymous / November 11, 2013 3:19 PM

This reads awkward. WHy not refer to him as Bejar instead of Destroyer throughout?

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

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

Read this feature »

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