On the last day of the summer, in the last River-to-River show of the summer, Atlanta’s Deerhunter wowed the crowd with a powerful send-off – all despite losing their guitarist a mere two days earlier.Colin Mee’s departure was apparently a mixture of being unable or unwilling to play a few upcoming dates, a growing disenchantment with their schedule and their music, and his fear of press over-exposure (“I don’t want the world to know what our excrement looks like or what we are selling on eBay or whether we got robbed”). This forced singer/frontman Bradford Cox to take up guitar duties in the now four-piece, and while that restricted his stage antics (previously known for playing in sundresses, and smearing fake blood on his hands and face – though maybe the free, all ages River-to-River Festival had its own limits…), it’s really about the music, and the music was good.
Almost as if to say, “This ain’t your daddy’s Deerhunter”, the band opened up with two new songs, “Cavalry Scars” and “White Out”. Both were in the post-rock vein, “Cavalry” very expansive, while “White” was more intense. But after that, Deerhunter went to the beginning of this year’s Cryptograms, with the eerie “Intro” sliding directly into the record’s hauntingly rocking title track. While appreciative of the new material, the quite-thick crowd really lit up with “Cryptograms”, and the softer, sweeter vibes of the following “Hazel St.”
After that Cryptograms triptych, things got even more recent, with another trio of songs, this time off of Deerhunter’s latest, Fluorescent Grey EP. The slower, almost backwards-playing “Dr. Glass” saw an especial improvement live, vs. on the EP, but it was “Wash Off” that showed the most energy, a driving intensity that really reached the crowd (no doubt helped by the chorus, “I was sixteen”, something that the all-ages audience would relate to). Things were so intense that Cox actually broke a string during the performance, but that didn’t stop the band from launching into the EP’s eponymous piece. The crowd favorite of the night, its drone grew into a wall of sound.
Deerhunter playing “Fluorescent Grey” live @ South Street Seaport, New York, NY:
If there was a misstep in the show, it was following the wonderful “Fluorescent Grey” with Cryptograms’ too-post-rock “Octet”, which lost some of the crowd’s interest. But Deerhunter ended things on a high note with “Strange Lights”, whose brightness-mixed-with-eccentricity washed over the audience well.
‘Brightness mixed with eccentricity’ could also have applied to Seaport Music, and the acts they’ve hosted there all summer. And wonderfully, on the last night of shows, South Street Seaport (QRO venue review) enjoyed some of its best weather yet. Whatever bad vibes Deerhunter might have been carrying into the gig were most certainly dissipated by the fresh sea air and warm, warm crowd. The season may have ended and white may no longer be fashionable to wear, but Deerhunter definitely gave this summer the send-off it deserved.