Photo: Peter Rea

Photo: Peter Rea


Deerhoof are 20, and remain edgy. That’s quite an achievement. The 4-piece band, born in San Francisco, have survived a few line-up changes over the years, but the current members have performed onstage together since 2008. Maryland drummer Greg Saunier was joined in ’96 by Tokyo singer Satomi Matsuzaki, and Guitarist John Dieterich (2001), was later joined by fellow guitarist and friend of the band Ed Rodriguez. They have 12 albums worth of material at their disposal, with the latest – La Isla Bonita, being my personal favourite. They have a reputation for improvisation, so quite literally, anything could happen.

New material features heavily in tonight’s setlist, with the odd classic hit thrown in for good measure. Greg’s jazz style is so aggressive that it flows perfectly with the loud, thrashing, punk guitar chords and effects from John. Ed occasionally adds a touch of Americana, while adopting a strong rock-stance that’s upstaged only by his multicoloured dayglo shirt, jeans and guitar. Satori is equally mesmerising, singing daintily in a variety of languages, and when she’s not donning a bass guitar that’s almost as tall as her, she runs through a dance routine that involves star-jumps and high-kicks.

The last lyric in a verse is a green light for the rest of the band to go nuts. John pulls a variety of bizarre faces while torturing his instrument, and Greg flings the sweat from his brow through the erratic, skilled, flailing of drumsticks, that cause a break in performance so they can set-up his kit again. This gives him a chance to catch his breath and exercise his dry, intellectual wit.

‘Exit Only’ is an early highlight – it’s a sub 3 minute, raucous, Ramones style tune that appears to be about fast-food outlets – “too many choice to order breakfast”. ‘Last Fad’ and ‘Bad Kids To The Front’ build to a strong finish. A beautiful rendition of  ‘Mirror Monster’ follows another hilarious speech from Greg, who apparently enjoyed his broccoli soup earlier. ‘Fresh Born’ steals the show – the band stare puzzled at their instruments while deliberately playing out of tune in haphazard fashion, before launching into the anthemic verse that hits all the right notes.

The crowd have been loud, themselves, in response to the shenanigans that have unfolded before them tonight. Satomi prepares us for backing vocal duties in an endearing fashion. I will probably never again hear a crowd shout “Duck” at such a volume.

… ‘after singing “Panda” 4 and a half times, follow with “China” for the first two rounds, then “Shanghai” for the next round and then ‘Bamboo”, and “We like” for the next, because we like Panda…. not to eat… but don’t sing it if you don’t like Panda… and the last one is a surprise… “Panda Panda Panda Panda Pan, Bye-Bye”.

Each member of the band has their own strong personality and style, and they shouldn’t really work together, but somehow it just clicks into place. The result is mesmerising. Jazzy funky punk? Whatever it is, I’m intrigued to know what they have in store for album number 13.

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Peter Rea

I like to go see fresh new music at Manchester's superb selection of smaller venues, and then share my enthusiasm.