We were somewhere around Maynooth on the edge of the midlands when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like “I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive. . . .” And suddenly there was a terrible roar and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Galway. “Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?”
Then it was quiet again.
Okay, I admit it, we weren’t on any drugs. And there were no bats, just huge fucking sheets of rain pounding vertically downwards onto the roof of the car, which wasn’t a convertible. I also can’t drive. But nonetheless, myself and my attorney (slash editor slash friend) did undertake the perilous road trip from Dublin to Galway last Saturday afternoon to attend the second night of Deerhoof‘s Irish tour.
I’ll cut the gonzo shtick because it’s stupid, but I want to relate this anecdote first. After a three hour drive and a quick cup of tea at what was to be our residence for the night, we walked the short distance to the Róisin Dubh. The first Galway natives we encountered on the street were two scumbag types, about fifteen, who mumbled “fags” at us and laughed as we walked down Dominick Street. Some things stay the same no matter where you go.
Part of the reason I was in Galway to see a second Deerhoof show was that So Cow, freshly returned from a six week US tour, was down as the first support. So, having left work at 5pm and arrived in Galway just before 8pm, there wasn’t that long a wait before things got interesting.
Three-piece So Cow have always been an excellent and rocking live band, but the difference the tour made was palpable. Where before there were occasional cross-stage glances, now there is only daunting tightness and the sort of synchronity it seems that only a road-worn three-piece can possess. The set, in contrast to the last time I saw them in Twisted Pepper, where they played the guts of twenty songs, was short and packed with (what might by the evidence of their inclusion on the So Cow LP be called) hits: Ping Pong Rock, Casablanca, Moon Geun Young, Choh Ah, One Hundred Helens…
More So Cow praise on this blog would lead to some sort of super-saturation state where the page would actually start to rain, so I’ll just say that there is nothing at all negative to say about the show, that Brian successfully deflected any and all home-town heckles, and that Greg Saunier was seen grinning widely and nodding his head in a “yeah man, good shit” sort of way throughout.*
* Trivia: So Cow once covered The Perfect Me for a Deerhoof covers experiment of some sort.
Now, if you have an idea of what Deerhoof are like, you won’t need to view the Handjob Films YouTube video directly above this paragraph. You’ll know that, far from being “unassuming”, “jangly” or “young folks” as the patently loco Le Cool preview asserted, Deerhoof are a San Franciso prog-psych-pop band who released their ninth and possibly second-best album Offend Maggie last year.
Except prog-psych-pop isn’t really enough to describe it. The drums are literally batshit crazy, but somehow never incongruous. The twin guitars are bizarre and complex, but fun and catchy. Satomi on bass and vocals is about the size of your average pixie, and is possibly as insane as Greg’s drums. Bands like Ponytail and maybe Marnie Stern or the Mae Shi inhabit a post-Deerhoof territory. They are their own fork-in-the-road on the musical map.
Dublin was a great gig. Whelans was full, both downstairs and, unusually enough, upstairs too. The weird fun/complex dichotomy worked itself out across tracks from a perhaps intimidatingly large number of albums – Milk Man, Apple O’, The Runners Four, Friend Opportunity and Offend Maggie, by my count, were all represented. Perhaps that alienated some of the crowd (one of whom heckled “play something we all know”, ridiculously, after what I think might have been Giga Dance). But there was something missing. It could’ve been that it wasn’t loud enough.
Galway must have got the memo because in the Róisin it was, proverbially, one louder. The set was the same, but somehow everything just settled better. The John Dieterich-sung Ramones cover Pinhead was scorching, and name-checked the patrón of Hardcore For Nerds, Gabbagabbahey, undoubtedly on purpose. Greg’s spider-like emergence from behind his drums to crouch his 6 foot-plus frame to Satomi’s 4 foot-plus microphone led to sthe same “he’s putting it on” accusations as Dublin, but at least no outward laughs (he’s not putting it on, it’s just his personality).
And stonkingly, Satomi left the stage and showed how truly tiny and insane she is by singing the final song from the crowd and wiping everyone’s sweat off their foreheads. From the wtf-is-this-mad-J-Pop-shit Panda Panda Panda to the bristlingly intense and gothic Giga Dance and the irrefusable likes of Twin Killers and The Perfect Me, nothing felt like a letdown of the pace and flow. Plus Deerhoof are probably, even though I don’t strictly-speaking believe talent exists, the most musically impressive band I’ve ever seen in concert.
For these reasons and more, full marks from me.