Review and Photography by John Bentley

Deerhoof, Manchester Gorilla, 24-08-15

Deerhoof have forged a reputation for experimentation and style changes over their twenty year and 13 album career. On record they can come over as quite a ‘technical’ band, but I really wasn’t prepared for the manic, noisy, avante-garde, fun garage rock on display at Manchester’s Gorilla tonight.

Ichi, Manchester Gorilla, 24-08-15

You’d expect interesting support acts at a Deerhoof gig and, boy, do we get it. First up is Ichi, a one man band (from Bristol, he says, although he originally comes from Nagoya in Japan). Ichi is a bit of a phenomenon, who has received widespread praise, including from Talking Head’s David Byrne. He enters on stilts and does a circuit of the auditorium, before heading to his improvised instruments kit on the stage. He uses / plays all sorts, including steel drum, vibes, a rubber balloon that gets turned into bagpipes, and a loudhailer. He’s a sort of Seasick Steve meets Ivor Cutler, via a Yoko Ono art installation. He sings songs about animals, insects, his favourite Chinese restaurant and… a kumquat. He’s really skilled, clever and hilarious at the same time. Ichi is also the only artist I have ever seen who includes putting his equipment away as part of his act. Amazing and fun. See him if you can.

Cowtown, Manchester Gorilla, 24-08-15

Cowtown, Manchester Gorilla, 24-08-15

Cowtown are a three piece from Leeds who describe themselves as ‘variant mutant pop’, but Deerhoof and Devo seem to be among the influences for their fast, spikey, but thunderous rock. Standing directly in the front of the stage next to the drums as I am (in order to get photos), I unfortunately can’t hear the songs well, which is why I move to the back for most of Deerhoof’s set (at the back of the venue, the sound is wonderful). However, Cowtown’s set is powerful and the band are later highly praised by Deerhoof. Particularly impressive is the full-on drumming of David Shields, who gives his all and leaves the stage in a shower of dripping sweat.

Deerhoof, Manchester Gorilla, 24-08-15

Deerhoof kick off with tracks from their latest album, ‘La Isla Bonita’, with the complex rhythm of ‘Paradise Girls’, giving founder member Greg Saunier a good chance to demonstrate his elegant and energetic drumming style. He has to re-adjust his drum kit after the power of his playing threatens to make them fall off the stage. Second number, ‘Doom’, allows guitarist Ed Rodriguez to demonstrate some thrilling and impressive squalls of guitar, complete with guitar hero stance. Meanwhile singer and bass player Satomi Matsuzaki does some nifty dancing. By this time the audience are totally hooked by this virtuoso display of rock, where the personality of the players really shines through.

Deerhoof, Manchester Gorilla, 24-08-15

Saunier has some playful chats with the audience in between songs. He is impressed that someone in the audience has already seen Deerhoof in Glasgow on a previous night. He praises the PA sound quality – he can actually hear the words sung for the first time on the tour. He jokes that Cowtown have described Deerhoof as “nice” and he invites the audience to come and chat at the merchandise table after the gig to see if they really are nice.

Deerhoof, Manchester Gorilla, 24-08-15

Older songs are slipped-in to the set, including ‘Buck and Judy’, which has a very Stereolab sound about it. Deerhoof have a genuine track record of innovation and have influenced many bands, including Stereolab, The Flaming Lips and Sufjan Stevens. ‘Tears and the Music of Love’ sounds somewhat like a mix of Captain Beefheart and 70’s rockers Free. Deerhoof’s music really is an amazing and imaginative mix.

Deerhoof, Manchester Gorilla, 24-08-15

These days bands tend to do encores with little encouragement, but tonight the audience really stamp their feet and clap their hands to get Deerhoof back on stage. There’s a bit of a swap around of instruments, as Saunier sings and takes up the bass and Satomi sits-in at the drum kit, for (I think), ‘Oh Bummer’, from the new album. Then Satomi conducts the audience in a bit of a sing-song on the group’s early favourite ‘Panda, Panda, Panda’, which she dedicates to those cute animals. This turns out to be an evening that far surpasses all expectation.

Leave a Reply