By ALEXA DOOSEMAN
As an inhabitant of San Francisco, I probably have a different image of the summer than most people. I do not picture sweltering heat, iced tea and bikinis. Instead, I imagine drizzle, cloudy skies and jackets. It is for this reason that I am escaping to Chicago for five days this summer; I want to throw on a tank top and feel muggy heat. It just so happens (or more accurately, was made a reality for this very reason) that my trip to Chicago coincides with the Pitchfork Music Festival, Pitchfork Media’s annual music festival in Union Park. While I am excited for many of the artists performing this year, I am the most intrigued by seeing Deerhunter live.
Descriptions of Deerhunter’s shows usually revolve around the words “intense,” “shocking” and “unforgettable.” For one, the band’s frontman, Bradford Cox lives with Marfan’s syndrome, a genetic disorder of the tissue. This syndrome makes Cox exceptionally tall and gangly; it also gives his face a hollowed-out, ghostly appearance. When he takes the stage, it sounds like there is a collective intake of breath as the audience sees him for the first time. For live shows, he also has been known to put on a dress and appear with fake blood across his face. If you are unfamiliar with Deerhunter, this last description might lead you to believe that the band is kitschy, heavy metal or just odd. And you would not be wrong, but you certainly would not be right.
This is the best thing about the band: they are impossible to pin down.
While they are most often described as ambient punk, indie rock, shoegaze and noise rock, it is their ability to slip in and out of these genres that make them so unique. From song to song, the sounds change, morphing into ever more unexpected genres; for instance, in their latest album, Halycon Digest, they added experimental 60’s rock and Southern folk rock to their long list of surprising sounds. Deerhunter defies classification, and in doing so, all their songs somehow fit together. Their work asks you to hear – and to feel – how various sounds link up and play off each other. In short, the band asks you to trust what they are about to do in a remarkably ego-less way.
And, this is why I am open to anything Deerhunter wants to throw at me in Chicago. If Bradford Cox shows up with fake blood running down his face at Pitchfork, I’m sure that I will have the same reaction that I had the first time I heard their third album Microcastle, their EP Fluorescent Grey or any other first experience with Deerhunter. I will think, “What is going on here?”; and then, as I let my own expectations go, I will see that they are adding something new and unexpected to their expansive image of music. In the course of their show, I feel certain that I will be won over by whatever “intense” antics occur. It is sure to be a perfect summer day.
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