Meltdown Festival: Deerhoof at the Queen Elizabeth Hall
On the first day of summer Deerhoof brought their unique style of sonic pandemonium to the Southbank’s prestigious Queen Elizabeth Hall for the Meltdown festival. Ironically, the choice of venue did more to disrupt the show than the band ever could.
How does a person go about describing a band like Deerhoof? They started out sounding like a very traditional, very standard rock gig. Then things exploded. There was noise, chaos and discord. This became a theme: Deerhoof are one of those acts that you can’t anticipate. They do what they do and you just go with it. One minute the tracks could sound as jazzy as We Do Parties and then suddenly switch into tuneful discordant insanity. By the third song the drummer, Greg Saunier, possibly the most unhinged of the group, appeared to have broken his cymbal.
While the music was clear, Satomi Matsuzaki’s vocals, though tuneful, ran together into a mostly indecipherable mess. As one example, Panda lost most of its clarity through the microphone and during tracks like Breakup Songs the instruments and synths mostly drowned her out. The problems cleared up slightly at the end, but it was too little too late. It’s hard to know whether the issues were due to technical or human error.
Queen Elizabeth Hall is cavernous with tiered rows and numbered seats. It’s an impressive venue and undoubtedly a prestige point for any artist playing it. That same class also worked to undermine the entire gig. Seating doesn’t work for rock shows. You need to be on your feet. You can’t get the same energy or produce the same chaos from songs like Sealed with a Kiss if the audience is static. It was apparent the entire way through: people obviously wanted a floorspace.
Strongly wanted by the festival’s curator Yoko Ono, Deerhoof were great. Their set was unpredictable, filled with insanity, even between songs, and good fun if you could get around the avant-garde nature of their act. The vocals were a problem and the passive-audience nature of the venue didn’t do them justice.
Oh, and they had an encore. It involved madness and Basketball.
Photos: Alberto Martínez Bracero
For further information and future events visit Deerhoof’s website here.
Watch the video for Secret Mobilization here: