Last night’s well packed, welcome-back-from-Europe Dirty Projectors show at Bowery was not as good as their show at Mercury Lounge (aka the best show that I didn’t go to this year). I know this because unlike the Merc kids, I didn’t see god at Bowery Ballroom. I did see a great show, though, a phenomenally powerful live band playing one of my favorite records this year. (On that note, I realize we get excited about a lot of music — we’re excitable people — and sometimes it’s tough to parse the momentary blitz from the longer-term records. Just know that with Dirty Projectors, I put my Gummy where my mouth is; Rise Above got one of my votes.) Take this:
And know, as you probably do, that it’s part of Dave Longstreth’s “hey let’s rewrite Black Flag’s Damaged as an art rock masterpiece” project. It’s a must-listen-on-repeat affair, dense, snatching at African guitar patterns and jazz-fusion chord inversions, plying on whirls of background vocals and harmonies, progressions interrupting themselves to be reinvented moments later, cathartic and melodic. Heady stuff, but not at the expense of access. Seeing ‘em live means marveling at how elegantly it’s recreated, and how dynamic that recreation is.
They cut a figure onstage, too. Dave impossibly tall in black hoodie, a still lightning rod while singing, a twitching live wire while deconstructing, flanked by comparatively pixie-sized sirens Angel Deradoorian and Amber Coffman on bass/flute and guitar respectively, making it all more fun to listen to (and look at), all in front of/backed by stellar drummer Brian McOmber. I name names ’cause they’re a band’s (and judging by the Michael Azerrad-including crowd, a music journo’s) band — yes Dave is the musical mastermind behind every fractured-then-fluid polyrhythmic passage, but it’s a teamed and seamless sync onstage. People dance at a Dirty Projectors show, somehow (“Imagine It,” as they say.) More amazing, people smile (this is Bowery Ballroom on an indie night, remember). And some people talk to the band between (looking at you, Grizzly Ed) and through the silent part of (and you, other guy) songs. (“Why are you SO AMAZING?” from Droste — and “Dave, have my babies! LONGstreth, mmmm,” from Other Dude — being the crowd’s favorite laugh lines). So maybe it wasn’t rapturous like Mercury, but it was one of my favorite live shows this year (and soon there’ll be a list to prove it, and yay we all love those).
Random notes: Los Campesinos! didn’t play ball and bring their Damaged cover on Friday, or else Bowery would’ve seen two “Police Story”s within one week. That would’ve been great. New York Times and BV had fun last night, too. Boston, see Dirty Projectors tonight at the Middle East. Philadelphia, you have one of the finest art-rock bills I’ve seen in awhile at Johnny Brenda’s, Dirty Ps with another band that floored me live recently, Pattern Is Movement (and word is both the Projectors and PIM are playing with the Forms at the Khyber on 12/14, another must-hit). If you need more visuals before you decide to buy a ticket, though, take the jump.