I arrived just shortly after Jock Gang started their set. The arty noise rock band from Atlanta is on their way to good things, but still felt as though they haven’t found that special something that will set them apart from the numerous similar bands.
The second act of the evening, New Zealand’s Aldous Harding was anything but indistinct. Musically, Harding approaches folk in a similar fashion to 60s folk icons like Basho, Baez, Buckley, but also has her own unique vocal style in which she really forms and shapes words to her own liking. As she performed, her stage presence was anything but relaxed. She was calm, but manic. At times she looked into the crowd with a piercing glare as though she was see a shadow person lurking deep within the crowd. At other times, her eyes rolled back in her head. It was simultaneously uncomfortable and engaging when in close proximity to the stage.
Through the colorful fog, the members of Deerhunter entered the stage. With no sign yet of enigmatic frontman Bradford Cox, the other members launched into the sonic assault of “Fluorescent Grey”. Within little time, Cox stepped onto the stage. From my nearby vantage point, he was little more than a tall lanky silhouette cloaked by the cloud of smoke. With his hat, glasses and gloves, his vague appearance oddly resembled that of Judge Doom (the villain of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?). In the years that have passed since I last saw Deerhunter, they’ve gained members, confidence, and most importantly a large batch of new songs which rank amongst the best of their discography. Following the nearly decade old opener, Deerhunter’s set focused primarily on more recent cuts, with a pretty even number of songs off of Fading Frontier, Monomania, and Halcyon Digest. And they really delivered the hits. Highlights of the set included the sax-heavy “Living My Life,” a never-before-played version of “Neon Junkyard,” and naturally the encore of “Cover Me (Slowly)/Agoraphobia” and “Nothing Ever Happened.” Bradford was in great spirits, praising Meow Wolf as the closest he’ll ever get to fulfilling his dream of playing at Disneyland.