Deerhunter/Battles @ South Street Seaport, NYC 8/31/07

For the better part of the long Labor Day weekend, NYC was refreshingly manageable, its population decreased by 30%, according to our full-of-shit metrics. Not so for the Friday night kicking off the holiday at the Seaport, though it’s not like we were surprised: an unreal bill, the season’s final show in the increasingly well-booked South Street Seaport Music Festival, and all of it free of charge. Apparently every remaining indie lover in the holiday-ravaged ranks of the city turned up in time for Deerhunter’s opening set, which we were a little worried about after the late-breaking news that guitarist Colin Mee had quit. Nothing major to fear, of course; the band had been a quartet before, lineup changes are nothing new, and their new plan was to continue on with this pared down roster. Still though, would Bradford being saddled with an axe somehow detract from their live magic?

Maybe it did, in the slightest; we’ve always said you’re better served by seeing a Deerhunter set that’s relatively antic-free (ala the Chicago warehouse show earlier this summer) ’cause then it’s easier to appreciate what’s truly moving you to hysterics (answer: probably the music, not necessarily the dress). And though we were right about the antics part, we didn’t really give credit to the air of unpredictability that comes with ‘em, and how often it’s the intersect of that “anything goes” vibe with the band’s collagist, dynamic soundscapes and delay-drenched melodic excursions that catapult ‘em. And so, this time it was a little more predictable: Bradford predictably stayed off of amps and near his mic, focused on his guitar while picking — but equally importantly, the band predictably rocked ‘n’ impressed. We’ve seen ‘em too many times to count now, but resistant and skeptical friends who had just the recordings to go on literally apologized aloud. So, a good night for our Deers, and nothing to worry about for everybody moving forward.

By the time Battles hit the place was jammed up like crazy (up there with the Animal Collective show), and as always it’s fun to see thousands of people trying to dance to the decidedly funky backbeats and alien singalongs Battles dish (and then seeing thousands of people lose the 1 beat simultaneously and try to play it cool). Both Battles and Deerhunter were among the top sets of P4K Fest ’07, Battles set in particular coming like a much-needed shot of adrenaline on a scorching hot and psych-folkie sort of day — but Friday night didn’t hit the same. Of course they were tight as ever (and John Stanier killed as always), but maybe our mathematical minds were a little fried. By 10PM on the first night of a long weekend your inner metronome is bound to be a little off-beat and fuzzy. All in all, a stellar night. ‘Til next year, Seaport….