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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Deerhoof, Experimental Dental School @ Neumos

posted by on October 8 at 11:22 AM

Deerhoof: Still tight after all these years.

Portland’s Experimental Dental SchoolShoko Hirakawa (drums, vocals) and Jesse Hall (guitar, vocals)—play taut, tart art pop. Their songs careen in semi-unpredictable directions, like Polvo compressed into Minutemen-sized portions. The duo’s fragile, understated vocals contrasted nicely with the strident zig-zagging of their compositions. EDS strike a balance between challenging and accessible, much like their tour mates Deerhoof.

It was encouraging to see Deerhoof pack Neumos on a Tuesday night, as they support their new album, Offend Maggie (Kill Rock Stars). The show was all ages and skewed pretty young, but it’s a good sign when you spot a pudgy, balding 50something guy in the front row. That’s proof that a band’s reached a rarefied level of popularity.

The Bay Area quartet are old pros at sounding youthful and vigorous. Singer Satomi Matsuzaki deftly played a Hofner violin bass made famous by Paul McCartney and sang in that feathery, ultra-sweet way that many Asian female vocalists do. Again, her voice provided an interesting counterpoint to Deerhoof’s jagged dynamics. Their citric, staccato pop was at once cute and tenacious, like Blonde Redhead wound tighter and minus the melodramatic melodies.

Drummer Greg Saunier kind of stole the show, guiding the Deerhoof ship with masterly hairpin change-ups in a style that combined Charlie Watts’ casual funk with Keith Moon’s maniacal, manic power. Ed Rodriguez and John Dieterich’s guitars often sounded Stonesy (think the coiled, crunchy lines in “Start Me Up” and “Honky Tonk Women”) when they weren’t chiming in delicate beauty or surging in a euphoric clangor. They moved through their 75-minute set with an incredible tightness, like a well-(b)oiled machine.

Deerhoof leaned heavily on Offend Maggie material (on initial listens, it’s generally more melodic and less strident than earlier output), but sprinkled in many older favorites, too. The crowd was rapt, cheering the intros of nearly every song and demanding an encore. And the geezer down in front had a smile on his face most of the night.

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