For any Australian with even a passing interest in alternative rock, June 2009 will surely go down in history as Deerhunter month. Riding a wave of unanimous critical praise for their third album Microcastle, singer and lead guitarist Bradford Cox, rhythm guitarist Lockett Pundt, drummer Moses Archuleta and bassist Josh Fauver landed in Australia for what was initially a three show, three city run but due to demand added shows in Melbourne and Sydney. A welcome bonus was an unscheduled concert by Bradford Cox’s solo project Atlas Sound whilst in Sydney, a benefit for community broadcaster FBi radio. In a rare case of good fortune and splendid timing both of Webcut’s editorial team were in the country at the same time and were able to cover Deerhunter in Brisbane and Sydney and also managed to squeeze into the sardine tin-esque venue that Atlas Sound were playing at. First let’s see how the Atlanta (animal) collective survive at the Zoo…
The Zoo, Brisbane
13th June 2009
Despite the full capacity we’re actually able to swim against the tide and position ourselves close to the front. The band stake out their territories and Cox opts for stage right. The frontman not being centre is a little unorthodox but that’s par for the course with Deerhunter. Fauver takes the central position and is the most animated doing a little forward-backward gyration all through the set whereas Pundt, who looks like a schoolboy taking a break from his year twelve finals, keeps a low profile obviously taking cues from the shoegaze class of ’91. But all eyes are on the tall, thin frame of Cox, with a shaggy mop-top and dressed in a green parka he looks like a mod who’s gone a few rounds on the rack. But it’s for the songs we’ve come for (although maybe not for the mini-Bradford in the front row, look at that love connection) and from the opening bars of the Bunnymen stylings of “Cryptograms” Deerhunter deliver.
In a tight, well paced set, the band cover most bases including “Nothing Ever Happens” with its nod towards Sonic Youth, if that band discovered Krautrock and the ability to craft a tune, to “Cover Me’s” lush retro pop. Cox’s troubled past is detailed in “Operation” which sees him spitting out “I Hate You” atop disco-punk and slow brooding rock, his bamboo shoot fingers adept at play intricate guitar fills. Melody and dissonance are served in equal measure, with Deerhunter knowing exactly when to add the noise or retract it. An hour later the final notes are played and a gracious band say their farewells to the gratified crowd. A friend later wonders why the fickle finger of hype has rested on the skinny shoulders of Deerhunter rather than a hundred other indie bands, and admittedly he has a point, but the blog/Pitchfork sphere is rarely fair and one would be hard pressed to find a more deserving act who has been able to assimilate and build upon their influences — post-punk, ’60s, shoegaze — so adroitly as Cox and company. Sometimes the hipsters get it right.