One month in San Francisco, one Indio and all the shows to see. We have Bandwagon Philippines writer Mariah Reodica out in the Golden Gate City, writing to us about gigs on the other side of the planet.
Deerhoof is the sound of being in love. Live, the mutant amalgamations that are their songs are a primal experience unleashed, relentless and intense. It’s a stark contrast with vocalist Satomi Matsuzaki’s crystal clear voice, the embodiment of all that’s pure in the world. They’re chaotic, unpredictable, and ultimately triumphant. Now that’s the stuff that romance is made of.
I caught Deerhoof at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, a grand ballroom with ornately-decorated carvings in the ceilings and an huge chandelier dangling over the dance floor. The show was sold out. They were in their home court, rooted in the city and the surrounding Bay Area.
They opened with 'Milk Man', a fantastic glam rock song that isn’t glam rock. Ed Rodriguez and John Dieterich are a formidable duo live, with searing riffs and jigsaw guitar interplay. An exploding amp wouldn’t have been a surprise.
Satomi is an utter joy to watch live, bouncing and dancing her way through the noise. On some songs, she’d drop the bass and leave Dieterich to a bass synth pedal, leaving her free to karate chop around. Nobody hits a cowbell with as much happiness as she does. She performs with the precision and enthusiasm of a star cheerleader, a shining light.
Being a short girl, I spent most of the show weaving my way through the tall Caucasian people. I posted up in front of Greg Saunier, an absolute mad scientist of a drummer. He is both the master and a slave to the sudden and simultaneously seamless transitions, the stop-start jolts, and the dizzying mathematic acrobatics of Deerhoof’s songs. He also stands up from the drum kit and walks over to the mic every now and then to deliver charmingly stilted stage banter, asking the crowd if he should part his hair on the left or the right, and conceding that the singing along of the crowd is seven to eight decibels louder than any sound known to man.
Yes, there were people singing loudly to Deerhoof songs. It’s a mean feat, considering that there’s so much to keep up with.
Towards the end of their set, Satomi trained the crowd to do a call-and-response in an unpredictable time signature, to hilarious results. We were all kindergarteners awkwardly flailing our limbs and moving our mouths in imitation, and then the band broke into Fresh Born.
Another highlight of the show was a glorious cover of Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me" that was downright surreal because it sounded good--better than the original recording, at least to me.
I’m not the kind of person to be generous with superlatives, but Deerhoof is one of the best live shows I’ve seen, and it was an honor to see these legends live in the city where they started.
I know a show is good when I decide not to listen to anything on the car ride home because I want to savor what I just heard despite the ringing tinnitus. I was smiling like an idiot until I fell asleep, giddy like a teenager in love.