Deerhunter & Black Lips @ the Commodore Ballroom, 7/23/09

Deerhunter and the Black Lips
It’s the week of “big indie” here in Vancouver. Two nights ago, I caught the Decemberists‘ full-length run-through of The Hazards of Love at the Vogue. I reviewed the show for Guttersnipe, so I won’t bother to write a full review here, but the band was predictably awesome, especially guest singers Becky Stark (of Lavender Diamond) and Shara Worden (of My Brightest Diamond).

Last night, Deerhunter and Black Lips co-headlined a show at the Commodore Ballroom. Deerhunter went on first, playing an array of songs from its back catalogue, drawing most heavily on last year’s Microcastle. Unlike the ambient drones that feature so prominently on their studio albums, Bradford Cox & co. downplayed their experimentalism in favour of stomping, bass-heavy takes on “Cryptograms” and “Never Stops,” whipping the crowd into a frenzy of moshing, crowd surfing and stage diving.

The energy level was upped even further when the band tore through a fuzzy version of “Nothing Ever Happened,” its epic instrumental passages punctuated by Cox’s squealing feedback solos. The set highlight came during “Saved by Old Times,” featuring an unhinged vocal cameo from Black Lips guitarist Cole Alexander.

As rowdy as Deerhunter’s performance was, Black Lips’ set was full-blown mayhem. I wasn’t keeping a tally, but the group must have played well over 20 songs, each of them a concise blast of southern-fried punk mayhem (as well as a foray into doo wop with the single “I’ll Be with You”). No song passed without several attendees climbing up on stage to crowd surf; security kept its distance, and the band didn’t seem to mind sharing the spotlight with its fans. Unfortunately, a few crowd members exploited Black Lips’ generosity, and at one point, four fans milled around of stage for several awkward minutes. Two of them, apparently meeting for the first time, began dirty dancing until another concert-goer climbed on stage and mercifully dragged them off. Later, a burly fan (who looked for all the world like Sully Erna of Godsmack) grabbed Jared Swilley’s microphone and began screaming until it was physically wrested from him by a roadie.

As the set went on, bouncers poured water bottles into the dangerously jam-packed audience. This added to the barrage of bottles and glasses being thrown around the room; just as the band was starting, I got nailed in the head with a half-full water bottle. The music itself wasn’t as memorable as Deerhunter, but it was easily the most chaotic I’ve ever seen the audience get in the Commodore Ballroom.

Local blues rock the TVees opened the show with a fun, if overly anachronistic set of punchy retro throwbacks. Dressed in dapper suits and ties, the group’s blues punk rave-ups evoked ’60s garage rockers like the Sonics and MC5. It was enjoyable enough, but it would be nice to hear a little more personality in the band’s retread of such an oft-imitated style.
 
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