Deerhunter, The Wiltern, 8/9/11
Deerhunter's last show in Los Angeles, at the El Rey, was considered one of the best shows of the quartet's career. But tonight the band was playing a much larger venue, and the results were mixed. For starters, the room was maybe 75 percent full, which was disappointing considering how big the band's following has become over the years.
The crowd -- full of plaid shirts, moustaches and thick-rimmed glasses -- was a mish-mosh of hipsters and dirty rockers.
The band, meanwhile, was battling major sound issues throughout the night. At the beginning of the set, there was way too much bass and as the night progressed, the group's sound became looser and louder, with too much echo. The sound problems sent droves of people to the exits early. The band dove into extended jams, but their music devolved into little more than loud noise.
All wasn't lost though. The set list was terrific, mixing in songs from throughout their history, from 2007's "Wash Off," to tracks from their critically acclaimed work Halycon Digest. The latter tunes were especially well-received, particularly opening number "Earthquake," the up-tempo rocker "Desire Lines," the Nirvana-influenced "Basement Scene," and the closer "He Would Have Laughed" -- the band's tribute to their friend Jay Reatard.
In addition to the extended jam sessions, there were moments of simplicity during the evening. For the encore's first song, Cox introduced a "special song for Los Angeles," a true-to-form cover of Ricky Nelson's "Poor Little Fool." It was one of the night's few songs that was audible; that alone made it terrific.
The crowd enjoying what they could hear Timothy Norris
Deerhunter picked the right set, but it was on the wrong night and in the wrong room. But despite the sound troubles and the crowd's lack of energy, the group powered through. All an audience can expect is an honest effort, and Bradford Cox and company provided that, doing their best to entertain the crowd.
Critical Bias: If the music were less Metal Machine Music and more Halycon Digest it would have helped their cause.
Random Notebook Dump: Moustaches, plaid and Converse, oh my!