For Your Ears: Double Header
Tonight, 6:30pm at Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion: The city’s new Loops and Variations series hosts their second concert of the summer, featuring a double team supreme: Ensemble Dal Niente and Deerhoof. The pairing of a new music ensemble with this rock group seems ideal considering the compositionally informed music of the latter. And Dal Niente certainly hasn’t been one to shy away from non-classical influences: their opening set will feature Hot, a work by Franco Donatoni that sounds more like an uproarious big band than anything else. Dal Niente performed this piece last month under the direction of Martino Formenti at their six hour music social, The Party. (BTW, lolz review of that event here.) As I recall, this is the only piece out of the 21 performed that night that got a “FUCK YEAH” out of the crowd. And for good reason. The ensemble will also be recapping some more of their season with excerpts from Fausto Romitelli’s Professor Bad Trip. Again, less classical here, more shredding:
Dal Niente will close with an arrangement of Deerhoof’s “Eaguru Guru” by Marcos Balter. I have to imagine the band being pretty psyched about this: they’ve been known to encourage arrangements of their tunes in the past. I was pleasantly surprised to find that drummer Greg Saunier had a complete piano/voice arrangement of Offend Maggie for sale at their Bottom Lounge show back in September. (He had also chosen the pre-show music which included Paul Jacobs’ recording of the Debussy Études: clearly a man after my own heart.)
Deerhoof are about as goofy live as they are in some of their recordings. When I saw them, they arranged themselves at the front of the stage, side by side in a line. At first I thought it was some clever little deconstruction of band hierarchies, but really I think it was just to make their choreography look fun(ny) as hell. They moved forward and backward in alternating patterns or they stood in place and over-exaggerated their playing. They also frequently struck weird poses, like a peculiar group of superheroes. Onstage memes in the form of physical gestures seemed to permeate their behaviors as they essentially played games with each other during the set. Perhaps the movements were inside jokes that come with frequent performing?
I wouldn’t be surprised if they just happened to make up their weird dances on the spot and infect the rest of their bandmates with them; the band has an incredible knack for responding to one another musically, so I have to imagine they can do the same visually. Their sense of group rhythm is unalterable, allowing each member to take risks with their playing while still feeling secure. Saunier’s playing, for instance, frequently orbits the pulse of the song without ever quite landing on it. He’s able to manipulate time as if it were a free jazz solo and, miraculously, the rest of the group is able to follow him.
Deerhoof also take a bare bones approach to their live show: no samples or added electronic sounds, minimal guitar effects, and a three-piece drum set (with a comically large high hat). Just solid playing and listening to one another. Definitely something you could just sit down and appreciate, were it not for lead singer Satomi’s cheerleader pep.
I’m also hoping this concert sets a precedent for more cross-genre collaborative shows. Perhaps Chicago will get its own Ecstatic Music Festival in the near future?