Review: Deerhoof @ The Zoo (Brisbane)

Tim is a Brisbane-based writer who loves noisy music, gorgeous pop, weird films, and ice cream.

During Deerhoof's encore at Brisbane's The Zoo (14 June), drummer Greg Saunier made his way across the stage to bandmate Satomi Matsuzaki's microphone for what she calls "talk time".

"It's been so long since we last mounted an Australian tour, we thought you might have forgotten what we were about," he told the crowd. It's been over a decade since Deerhoof last visited our shores, but that time wasn't spent resting.

The San Francisco experimentalists continued to tour and record, including an EP, three live albums, and seven albums. Their latest is last year's 'Miracle-Level', their 18th and first to be entirely produced and recorded in a studio. Despite the professional environment, 'Miracle-Level' is filled with the joyful melodies and untamed experimentation beloved by fans.

At The Zoo, the band reminded Brisbane fans of their energetic and playful performance, still sharp after their decade absence.

A whisper of echoed saxophone opened the support set from locals Guppy. Jack Mitchell's saxophone grew in volume into one, sustained, discordant burst, making vocalist Pamela Rosel cackle.

Shiv Perkins' rubber band bass stretched and tightened alongside drummer Callum Galletly's pummelling. Together, they built tense rhythms that sent Pamela crashing to her knees on the floor, cushioned by the bubble wrap she fashioned into her stage outfit.

Pamela twisted the controls on an effects unit, turning her voice into digitally distorted howl that goaded Jack to shriek and yelp into their own mic. It's a nervy performance that's also bittersweet, this being Guppy's last performance at The Zoo due to the venue's impending closure. However, their set is a jittery no wave eulogy to one of the city's beloved spaces.

"Girls!" cries Satomi Matsuzaki at the start of Deerhoof's opening song, 'Paradise Girls'. The band are in a line onstage, with Satomi and drummer Greg Saunier at either end. Between them, guitarists John Dieterich and Ed Rodriguez toss stuttering licks between each other.

The kit Greg is seated at is minimal – pared down to a snare, kick, cymbal, and tom. Despite the small size, Greg bashes it with power and intensity. Beneath the long hair he flicked around, Greg's face pouted, gurned, and scrunched, giving each hit an expression, and bounced in his stool from the force of his beats.

The band's music can drastically change rhythms within a single song. In 'Sit Down, Let Me Tell You A Story', a soft sing-song melody morphs into jackhammer drums and screwy guitars, while 'Fresh Born' begins with chiming guitars that develop into a funky stop-start rhythm.

Their medley 'Love-Lore 2' proves impressive, beginning with the 'Knight Rider' theme – including Satomi providing its narration – and a touch of Gary Numan's 'Cars' before driving down Eddie Grant's 'Electric Avenue'.

Fans bounced to the springy waltz of 'My Lovely Cat' – the band's ode to 'Miracle-Level' producer Mike Bridavsky's celebrity cat, Lil Bub. The song changed course, building into a storm, and fans readjusted their bounce, but their enthusiasm remained unchanged.

Another "talk time" arrived, and Greg monologued about 'talk time'. During one long pause, a fan cried: "Save The Zoo!" It's a cry that's met with approval, with Greg adding: "I've always felt like an indie rock star on this stage."

Closing song 'Damaged Eyes Squinting Into The Beautiful Overhot Sun' floated in on dreamy guitars. Soon, the band showed what it meant to feel like an indie rock star, closing on a long instrumental breakdown of noise.

John knelt and rested his ear on his amp, sliding a glass bottle along his strings. Satomi rocked back-and-forth in front of her amp, scratching her pick along her bass strings. Greg's sticks disappeared, leading to him slapping his hands all over his kit, windmilling his long mane of hair, rubbing his hands on his strings to make piercing squeals.

It's impossible to predict when their next visit to Brisbane will be, but no one will be forgetting this Deerhoof performance anytime soon.

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