About seven years ago, the club scene in New Orleans was very different. We didn't have the myriad of options we do now, and for the most part, the House of Blues was generally the place to see most of the best shows around. That's where I saw Deerhunter for the first time. It was a magnetic concert that made me an even bigger fan of the Bradford Cox-led artsy indie rock of Deerhunter.
Some things change, however. Thursday night at the HOB, I once again ventured into the weird world of Bradford Cox to see what kind of show he would present. Starting off the evening was Timkoh, a one-man musical showcase that, well, was quite interesting, but also very outside of anything that would be considered mainstream music. I arrived about halfway through the set and settled in. Watching Timkoh transition from instrument to instrument proved he knew how to juggle the responsibilities of the extra work, and it paid off in the end. He's not likely to be blowing up in the immediate future, but as an opener, he played his part to perfection, even if some people didn't get it.
Next up was Deerhunter, and if the crowd was uncertain of the opener, that sentiment bled through to the headlining set. Opening with "Cryptograms" from the album of the same name, they sounded tight and organized. As a band that has steadily released albums for the better part of 15 years, they have a lot of material, but the variety of the set list doesn't fully grasp that. The numbers selected for the show were all solid, but also mostly newer. Stand-out tracks from the early days were replaced by newer, fresher songs, like "Death In Midsummer" and "What Happens to People," both from their most recent, solidly dependable Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared? But gradually, they brought out older favorites.
A song like "Desire Lines" never gets old, and Thursday night it rivaled anything else the band brought to the table. It also just happens to be an insanely good song, so maybe I'm biased. Having said that, you never know what to expect from Cox and his Deerhunter cohorts, and boy, did we get some unusual monologues from the frontman. He's been known to ramble from time to time, and go into specifics that most people might not think about, but this was another level-at least in regards to the past times I've witnessed Deerhunter. What began as a dialogue about the artwork in the House of Blues turned into Bradford discussing how the artwork displayed was better than the Louvre. Okay, that's cool, I guess, but it definitely left the crowd unsure. And then, out came hand puppets. You read that right: Literal hand puppets accompanied Cox through a strange but adventurously fun segue between songs. It went on for minutes, with Bradford using his hand puppet to tell the story of the origins of jazz in our fair city. During this monologue, an older lady (who clearly didn't know the weird history of the man behind the band) turned to me and asked if I thought he was just drunk or on something else. The only thing I could think of was "He's just a weird dude," and I kept watching the puppet show enthrall and confuse the audience.
Once that was over, it was back to business. With "Coronado" bursting at the seams, the crowd rocking out, and Cox getting to be as weird as he seems, all of us joined in a moment that was as interesting to watch as it was enthralling to be a part of. That being said, I was surprised at the size of the crowd. Sure, Deerhunter is a still a solidly good band who can deliver a show that is engaging, but perhaps they aren't the indie rock upstarts they used to be. Either way, they keep making thoughtful, oftentimes gorgeous albums, and I expect them to continue doing so.