Deerhoof Hops Genres in Manic ’Sco Blitz


Claire Morton

Guitarist John Dieterich (left), bassist and vocalist Satomi Matsuazki and drummer Greg Saunier, OC ’91, lived up to the hype surrounding Deerhoof’s live shows on Tuesday. Performing to a nearly sold-out ’Sco, the band showcased a range of genres from jazz to indie rock.

Jacob Rivas

This semester has already seen more than its fair share of talent take the ’Sco stage. Last Tuesday however, the venue’s booking team managed to outdo itself and step up its indie rock cred yet again, bringing San Francisco’s venerable Deerhoof to campus.

Since its 1994 formation by absurdly talented drummer Greg Saunier, OC ’91, Deerhoof has managed to cross genre lines and avoid being pigeonholed as having a stable sound. While Saunier’s presence is impossible to ignore, since his drumming so defines many songs, the expansive variety of music the band has released comes from its open-endedsongwriting process. In an interview with Pitchfork, guitarist John Dieterich explained that the four-piece’s unique catalog is a product of the variety of tastes and influences each musician contributes and whatever the band happens to be enjoying while writing. Few bands have managed to stay as authentically open-minded as Deerhoof.

Despite its unusual standing as far as published music goes, the band is perhaps best known for its live shows. Tuesday saw Deerhoof live up to and surpass the word-of-mouth buzz surrounding the band’s stage presence. Frontwoman and bassist Satomi Matsuzaki seized every opportunity to perform an assortment of dances, while Saunier, whose drumssat at the front of the stage rather than behind the band, literally screamed at his cymbals after each convulsive strike. While his limbs and head flailed and Matsuzaki’s legs kicked up and down, guitarists Dieterich and Ed Rodriguez remained mostly in place, performing with a more composed and quiet energy.

Despite a small gathering of true fans — as demonstrated by the audience’s failure to fill chorus vocals after a first verse — the ’Sco was at or close to capacity by midnight. While New York rapper Awkwafina’s set received a mixed reaction from the crowd, it took about one and a half Deerhoof songs before audience members rushed the front of the stage as if Saunier’s drums had somehow created a vacuum. While Deerhoof ’s latest releases tend toward noise pop, the band played with a tenacity found more often in aggressive indie or even punk rock, and the crowd loved it. ’Sco audiences often enjoy energy and return the favor with sloppy mosh pits, but this crowd seemed more in tune with the music and well behaved; mosh pits stayed centered, for the most part, and few, if any, concertgoers were dragged in against their will. Adding to the crowd’s enthusiasm was the oft-forgotten crowd surf during the encore. Three different bodies could be seen floating, bouncing and bobbing around. Even the casual side-stage crowd moved around a bit; many head nods could be seen on either side of the stage.

Each band member brought something of their own to the performance and played with visible skill and passion. The audience was more focused on the livelier Saunier and Matsuzaki, but without skill and poise, the intricate guitar lines and riffs could have thrown the performance off. Fortunately, they were performed excellently. Still, the collective gaze was aimed toward Saunier’s writhing body. He moved behind the kit as the songs moved, waving his torso back and forth with a fluidity that simply can’t be emulated. His intense presence was matched by his obvious talent. While Saunier never struggled to keep rhythm, he never hesitated to abandon it either. Rather than playing the usual supporting role of percussion, Saunier’s kit led the band through numerous mid-song time changes, as if obliterating a tempo were something the group could do on a whim.

Vocals were equally sharp, although Matsuzaki’s presence was more playful than commanding. Her relatively small frame and fun dance moves alongside Saunier’s poundings certainly didn’t detract from her presence. On the contrary, their multidimensional nature transferred well to the stage. As the second most active performer, she garnered much attention — and most likely a large share of the affection — given by the crowd.

This show should land a spot on a shortlist of most memorable concerts the ’Sco has seen in recent years. Whether on account of musicianship, stage presence, the energy bouncing back and forth between the performers and the audience or the crowd’s maturity, Tuesday’s performance radiated something brilliant. Let’s hope the booking office keeps up the good work