Deerhoof, Abe Vigoda, Zach Hill, & Death Sentence: Panda! Great American Music Hall. 8/2/09.

deerhoof by mike keegan

deerhoof by mike keegan

It was just another night at the Great American Music Hall, but not just any ordinary bill: Deerhoof shared the stage with Abe Vigoda (L.A.), Zach Hill (Sacramento) and Death Sentence: Panda! (S.F.). Never having seen Death Sentence: Panda!, I didn’t know what to expect, or even what exactly made up their instrumentation. Singer Kim West’s vocals were on-point and she managed to keep her screaming tasteful; everything she did was deliberate. Paul Costuros’ clarinet was interesting to watch, as it was patched through various effects pedals. I do think the drums left some room for improvement, however. Chris Dixon stuck with fills on his toms almost exclusively, and it was when he toned this down for the last two songs that DS:P! really hit the nail on the head.

zach hill by mike keegan

zach hill by mike keegan

I had high hopes for Zach Hill. I’m a fan of Hella. Not too diehard, but I like a couple of their records, and I’ve also heard his work with Marnie Stern. His drumming always seems to outshine his musical counterparts, so it came as no surprise that his guitarist that night was less than impressive. I mean, I got it—it was a noise jam. The sound was just so off that I couldn’t really feel the performance or hear what Hill was doing; I could tell he was going nuts on the drums because he’s a very visual drummer, but there was no bass and I was only able to hear the snare, cymbals, and the chalkboard-like grating of the guitar.

abe vigoda by mike keegan

abe vigoda by mike keegan

Abe Vigoda proved to be a good choice to put between Zach Hill and Deerhoof. The first half of the set wasn’t too special for me—the sound was still muddy and the sparkly delay that constitutes Abe Vigoda’s signature sound added to the inaudibility. To make it worse, their audience started to mosh when the tempo picked up, and I was doused with beer. As soon as I got over the beer spillage, though, Abe Vigoda put me in a boogie trance. The second half of their set was filled with what I understand to be songs off their latest release, the Reviver EP. I dug this. They have a solid mastery of time changes, switching from a solid 4/4 rock feel to an almost half-time reggaeton, and even going so fast at times that it sounded like an Irish jig. I think these kids rose to the occasion and we’re going to be hearing a lot from Abe Vigoda for the next few years.

When Deerhoof took the stage, their experience and professionalism was palpable. The house was surprisingly empty, but I attribute this to Sonic Youth being at The Fox in Oakland and Japandroids being two blocks away at The Hemlock. Playing much slower than on their recordings, Deerhoof managed to keep their songs interesting, pulling them off magically despite the sound still being off. The audience’s participation was lacking, but even without any energy back from the stale crowd, Deerhoof picked it up with a cover of The Ramones’ “Gabba Gabba Hey,” with John Dietrich on vocals, and appeared to have a great time onstage. Satomi Matsuzaki was as bouncy as ever holding down the low end nice and solid, Greg Saunier’s beats were loose and inventive, and Ed Rodriguez’s and Dietrich’s guitars were locked in nice and tight. The band’s dynamic range is always impressive.

deerhoof by mike keegan

deerhoof by mike keegan

All in all, it was a great bill. Each act, with the exception of Zach Hill who was balls-out the entire time, got off to a slow start but found their pace. Hopefully, the Great American Music Hall will take care of whatever issues they were having with sound that night. I look forward to hearing more from Abe Vigoda, and I’m definitely heading to El Rincon this week to see DS:P! get heavy.

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