Live: Deafheaven/Marriages

deafheaven1aMANGO’S — 6/23/13: What was I, a person who considers Jeff Buckley’s Grace to be the pinnacle of modern musicianship, doing at a black metal concert? A person whose only real venture into harder music consists of ownership of The Dillinger Escape Plan’s Ire Works? In this crowd, I doubt I’d find another person who was unmoved by Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasure yet adores Kelly Clarkson’s “Since You’ve Gone.” On the surface, I did not belong. Yet I, a Greek yogurt-eating, NPR-listening, Economist-reading, indie-pop-leaning music listener, was fully absorbed in the skull-shatteringly loud and aggressively stunning display of San Francisco’s Deafheaven.

Accompanying the San Francisco quintet were LA’s Marriages. Neither fully alternative noise nor shoegaze, Marriages’ set enveloped listeners with dense, distorted instrumentation intertwined with singer Emma Ruth Rundle‘s soulful vocals. There was a musical tidal movement to Marriages performance — choruses and verses initially swelled, gaining an almost unsustainable momentum, but the songs would then break and fall into a calmed sense of composure. It was fantastically hypnotic, and a performance that served as the ideal foil for the much harder headliners.

Not soon after Marriages finished, a black-garbed, black-gloved George Clarke took the stage with his Deafheaven bandmates. Despite unbridled praise from outlets such as The Talkhouse (via former Thursday front man Geoff Rickly) and that paragon of American culture, The New Yorker, Deafheaven took the stage to a slightly underwhelming audience at Mango’s. Late Sunday shows are always a tough draw, and perhaps the timing of the event contributed to sparse crowd. However, those in attendance added as much to the experience as the bands on the stage. Respectfully quiet between songs (e.g., no idiotic hollering and “woo”s) while attentively manic during the performance, these were the people who wanted to be there and who appreciated this music the most.

marriages2Given the musical style, one might expect a brutish display; an hour of noise leaving everyone exhausted. You might even forgive Deafheaven if they chose to simply hammer through, heads down, no looking back, and then walk out. However, Sunbather is a challenging album that will not resign the band to apathy. Ambitious as their album, Deafheaven produced a mature, industrious, and exceptional set.

From the frenetic tremolo picking to the repeating post-rock motifs, Deafheaven expressed an unfiltered emotional honestly. Forget the fact that Clarke’s screeching choruses were indiscernible; this was a communal outpour whose source lies within the band. As frontman, Clarke was merely their most visible delegate. With words no longer dictating emotions, the bnd was able to reach a more fundamental core. By reaching this emotional core, a unique and challenging musical connection was possible. Anguish. Regret. Animosity. Hope. Unashamed and exposed, these emotions were clearly written across Deafheaven’s performance.

This beautifully unrefined approach allows for an interchange between audience and band, and only the black-hearted would appreciate Deafheaven on a purely intellectual level. The band continually prodded and confronted the audience, looking for emotional reciprocity. It’s difficult to comprehend this level of engagement, however, without moments of perspective. Beneath the blast beats and distortion lay a post-rock undercurrent that Deafheaven would surge through to quell the more visceral components.

Through their post-rock leaning, Deafheaven gave the audience respite and a chance to process the spectrum of emotions torn out by the band’s performance. These quieter moments offered beauty to contrast the aggression. They allowed for an unspoken, emotional discourse between the audience and Deafheaven, and a surreal connection was created. Their display of regret becomes your regret. Their belief is now your belief. You empathize and you understand. It’s in these moments that concerts evolve into touchstones that separates people from who they were into who they now are. END

(Photos: Deafheaven, photo by Bryan Proteau; Marriages. Feature photo by June Zandona.)

Live review by . Live review posted Tuesday, July 16th, 2013. Filed under Features, Live Reviews.

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