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Live Review: Deerhunter at Los Angeles’ Wiltern (8/9)

    Earlycomers to the Los Angeles stop on Deerhunter‘s latest headlining tour were treated to the ambient sounds of noted synthesizer wiz David Scott Stone. His washes of modular synth goodness seemed lost on the gathered few though, who greeted his sweeps and bleeps with jeers. As the track picked up intensity though, he was joined onstage by a friend who operated an old drum machine, immediately transporting the room and its inhabitants back to an early ’90s acid house party — sans the cheesy vocal samples. The sudden burst of energy did well to get the reluctant crowd moving. Stone was followed up soon after by a set from LA outfit Dunes. The usual sort of lo-fi/noise pop-lite racket that everyone seems to be cranking out these days, Dunes’ performance peaked occasionally when frontwoman Stephanie Chan’s vocals rose above the whir of noise.

    Deerhunter and their towering frontman, Bradford Cox, took the stage to a raucous welcome, not long after the PA finished blasting Dylan classic “Ballad of a Thin Man”. (Get it?!) The band wasted no time breaking into Halycon Digest‘s dreamy opener “Earthquake”. The Atlanta-based outfit favored their most recent record, showcasing their chops as they shifted naturally between Halycon Digest standout “Desire Lines” to the glam-stomp of “Don’t Cry”. Rather than the sort of laid-back affair one might expect from the band, Deerhunter often stretched their tracks into elongated jams, as on the sprawling “Nothing Ever Happened”.

    Even as the clamor they worked out of their instruments echoed a bit too loud in the cavernous Wiltern (the last time Deerhunter visited in LA was for a pitch-perfect set at the significantly smaller El Rey), the crowd seemed to get the band’s drift, standing in awe at the stunning walls of noise and dancing their socks off at all the right moments. The band relished the bigger stage as well, proving why their ascent up the indie ladder is very warranted. While their ’08 LP Microcastle was certainly a great record, Deerhunter displayed remarkable depth on their latest album, dipping their feet into a wider variety of styles than anyone could’ve guessed. Live too, the band had no issue showing off said depth, with Cox — who, in all his hulking stature, looks like he’d sound more Peter Steele than Perry Como — trying on his best croon for much of the night. Opening their encore with Ricky Nelson’s ’50s rock ‘n’ roll hit “Poor Little Fool” was a step in the same, wide-open direction, as Lockett Pundt’s guitar squalls on the song’s latter half somehow made perfect sense.

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    Setlist:
    Earthquake
    Wash Off
    Desire Lines
    Don’t Cry
    Revival
    Little Kids
    Basement Scene
    Nothing Ever Happened
    Spring Hall Convert
    Green Jacket
    Encore:
    Poor Little Fool (Ricky Nelson cover)
    Fluorescent Grey
    He Would’ve Laughed

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