I went to a Deafheaven show, but you probably haven't heard of them. That's a deaf joke, because my ears are ringing and won't stop and I'm a little terrified I have tinnitus.
I get called a hipster every so often, which is kind of stupid, but whatever; I've been called worse things by better people. That's still the argument, though, isn't it? Music conversation has become about whether it's cool or not or whether you've heard of something (first, no less), not whether it's good or not.
Deafheaven is good. I don't know what that makes me for liking them, but the 30 or 40 articles I read on this so-called "metal shoegaze" band hinted that it makes me something. Here's another reminder that genre barely exists and is irrelevant. I still use it, but only for direction, not as a landmark.
To the point: Wreck & Reference opened this gig. This drum and sample board duo are what I would call "plastic metal," which is not an insult. The lead dude attached his Ableton board to a guitar strap and slapped it like a Fender, wielding it in a frenzy similar to how Jonny Greenwood would play sludge.
I've been wanting to do something like that for years, but I'm not a musician. I'll never understand why electronic musicians just lay their gear on a table. It's boring to watch you stand there and push buttons, but even a keytarist looks more interesting than a keyboardist (unless you're this guy.) Take note of this, folks -- Wreck & Ref know what they're doing. Their energy was massive and impressive. But it was plastic instruments and metal noises, so plastic metal.
Obviously, I've heard a lot about Destruction Unit because they're treated like gods in Phoenix right now. I'd never caught one of their shows, however, because it seems it was always at some obscure venue across town or they were busy touring the planet. They were like if The 13th Floor Elevators merged with Black Sabbath, so I guess they were "neo-psychedelic howler monkey drone metal." See how useless genres can be?
But fuck, Destruction Unit was incredibly cool. Just imagine the coolest band you can think and multiply it by 11. Just pure, melodic noise. I want to be everyone in this band's best friend. There were no pauses between songs, which is a great stage technique if you can pull it off. Don't give your audience a chance to breathe. Still, almost no one was dancing or getting into it. Big surprise.
My friend and former New Times music editor Jason Woodbury said a few days ago that maybe I wasn't going to the right gigs. I try go to plenty of shows that have energy, but I tend to complain more about the ones that lack engagement. He's right, though. Then I looked over at the underage section and realized all the kickass punk shows with crowdsurfing, moshing, and an overabundance of enthusiasm involved the underage crowd.
So when Deafheaven took the stage, I went over there. I removed my earplugs and got shoved around and drenched in sweat and kicked in the shins a hundred times. It felt exhilarating and chaotic and visceral and fun. Almost everyone on the "adult" side still acted boring. But Deafheaven's singer, George Clarke, wasn't having it.
When he took the stage, no one cheered. Or maybe I couldn't hear it. Clarke threw his hand up in a jerking upward movement. Get up, he silently commanded. Get crazy. Show me the respect I deserve. People finally applauded, then grew silent. Clarke did it again. Then, he began to scream.
The entire time, Clarke looked furious. Maybe he always looks that way. He was dressed like a priest, but danced like a conductor. Mutely enraged, he jerked his hands and the audience immediately responded. He reached out to them and grabbed their fists and held them tightly, screaming the whole time. The music twisted, as it always does, between gorgeous and ferocious.
At one point I thought Clarke was spitting on the 21-plus crowd. Good, I thought. They deserve it! But I think he was just dribbling from all the frothing at the mouth. He spat a lot, that's for sure. But he never once looked amused.
Deafheaven played through "Vertigo," "Sunbather" and more from the album of the same name. I swear that before they played their last song before the encore, "The Pecan Tree," the band did a screeching, mind-blowing cover of The Jesus and Mary Chain's "Just Like Honey." It could have just been the weed though. Plus, I could barely hear and now I'm probably going to hear this ringing in my head forever all because I thought it was more important to hear this night clearly than to protect myself. Fuck.
They did an encore. I always wonder what kind of bands do encores and what it says about them, if anything. I don't really know, but I think, while purely theatrical, they're perfectly fine. They did "Unrequited," a cut from their album Roads to Judah.
And that ladies and gentlemen, is how you almost sell out a metal (sort of) show at a hipster venue on a Monday night. I hope everyone who was there takes close note, especially the crazy, sweaty younger kids that actually took the time to push that energy back at the singer so kind to travel here for our entertainment. It's so much better than just standing there, staring. It's a concert, not a museum. Oh, you don't like being elbowed in the ribs? That's what the bleachers are for. Move aside. Fuck this generation -- the next one is already way cooler than us.
Last Night: Deafheaven, Destruction Unit, Wreck & Reference at Crescent Ballroom
The Crowd: So much black. So many thick-rimmed glasses. So many gauges. So many tattoos.
Overheard: Guy One: "The first time I heard of them, I was like, WTF is a Deafheaven?" Guy Two: "Wait, you never heard of them?" Guy One: "Oh no no, I just forgot about them." (See! I told you! I'm not making this up. This is the attitude this band attracts somehow. What a pity.)
Personal Bias: Call me whatever you want -- hipster, pretentious, freak. Just don't call me late for dinner.
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