Concert review: Deerhoof, Whammy Bar

By Joe Nunweek

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Deerhoof. Photo / Dallas Pickering
Deerhoof. Photo / Dallas Pickering

Deerhoof round three for this one, following an enjoyable but sparsely attended 2010 Kings Arms show and a famously cracker set in early 2006 at (get this) 4:20. Sort of traces the arc of scrappy Auckland indie's search for a home, which seems to have made St Kevin's Arcade its new HQ. And it's a sweltering night for it.

This is my first time seeing Poor You Poor Me, and they're simply exhilarating. The first of two wonderful frontwomen tonight, dancing like a force unto herself, a violinist, and an otherwise standard rock setup that play with the most elegiac fury. They come off like some shitkicking combination of The Pogues, The Clash and early Modest Mouse, while the sweetness of the arcing strings and boy-girl vocals conjures up a parallel universe in which Architecture in Helsinki are not the font of all evil.

Sharpie Crows are a couple more years established, but each time I see them it's a fresh experience. Their demented, detuned racket is all exquisite torture. Despite the distortion, noise and drone, their drummer will lay down Jaki Liebezeit-level grooves before it all gives way to bloodcurdling, show-stopping screams.

Everything in its wrong place. By the by, I really love that Sam Bradford is singing about us. Sure, it's abstract, Mark E. Smith-style, but it really evokes this uneasy New Zealand landscape. "How can we make country music/ When there's no country anymore?" is one of the most devastating lines to come out of one of our mouths.

And then I watch a pillar for an hour. Whammy doesn't have an elevated stage, which I'm 100 per cent behind ideologically speaking, but makes it hard when the venue's at capacity. I run to say hi to someone, and that's that. No way will I shove someone aside for a better vantage point for a band I've already seen twice, but minus the view this is still the noisiest, most out-there Deerhoof show yet. Their latest, Deerhoof Vs. Evil, gets a little too prosaic for me - this show starts with stone-cold classics like Panda Panda Panda and The Tears and Music of Love and runs their blend of Satomi Matsuzaki's vocal sweetness and the band's deafening eruptions of guitar and drums to the end-zone - way more Deerhoof circa 10 years ago. More than once, Greg Saunier appears to teasing the audience with his stop-start discussion, serving as the band's unlikely metronome.

Overall, it's another solid set from veterans who couldn't put on a bad show in their sleep - what's remarkable is how close the local support has got to their level these past few years.

Who: Deerhoof w/ Sharpie Crows and Poor You Poor Me
Where: Whammy Bar, Auckland
When: Saturday 7 January

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