It was a homecoming of sorts for the Bay Area based band Deerhoof, who brought their eccentric rock to the Memorial Union Terrace on Monday night.
Drummer Greg Saunier informed the crowd in the middle of the set that lead guitarist John Dieterich had lived in Madison back in 1991, in a house off of Langdon Street. It turns out that Dieterich's brother is a Mad City resident, and the fledging musician was looking to cut his chops in the local scene back in the day.
Sixteen years later, Madison music lovers were able to cut their own chops on Deerhoof's innovative, frugal sound at an explosive performance that brought more people out of the local woodwork than this reviewer has ever seen at a Monday night show. UW students, resident hipsters, and out of towners alike packed the Terrace to standing room only; the makeshift mosh pit was filled with flannel wearing, shaggy headed young men who jumped eagerly in unison with the band's onstage antics.
It is difficult to classify Deerhoof's music -- the singing of Japanese frontwoman Satomi Matsuzaki has drawn comparisons to Blonde Redhead in the past, but the former band has a far grittier sound than the latter. Matsuzaki's sugar sweet, childlike voice, which is juxtaposed with grimy bass lines, chest thumping drums, and the prolific wailing of Dieterich on guitar, conjures an image of a kitten on a hunt. At first purring and melodic, the sound and meter will change without regard for convention and attack the listener with its intensity and distortion.
The lyrics of the song "Flower" sum up this effect. "Flower, flower, flower," Matsuzaki trills beautifully. But before you can catch your breath she's off, singing, "Power, power, power: I come over, I take over," as Dieterich joins in, employing his astonishing ability to get whatever sound he pleases out of his guitar.
When Deerhoof's set -- complete with encore -- came to a screeching halt, Satomi piped into the microphone: "Thank you very much. Bye bye, thank you." Hands clamored in the air to get one last taste. "We like high fives," she added, and the crowd laughed.
A few feet away, a young man lay on the concrete with his face toward the sky. He took a drag on his cigarette, seemingly unaware of the hundreds of people around him. Whether it was an out of body experience or one too many beers, it was a mark of a fine night, indeed.