Ever hear that saying “never meet your heroes”? For the longest time, I believed that. It seemed like, with a few exceptions, whenever I would meet a “hero” of mine, something would go wrong. Either I would say the wrong thing, or the person would just not live up to my decidedly unrealistic expectations, and everyone would go home disappointed and grumpy.
Yeah that sucks right?
Now I’m not going to go all John Hughes on you here and reveal my teen coming-of-age story, but I’m not so sure I believe that saying anymore because of one Bradford Cox. But I should start at the beginning.
When my friend KG and I tentatively stumbled into the small central Munich club where we were to see Deerhunter, we feared that we would be the only ones at the concert. This idea was equal parts scary and exciting. There was no line at the entrance when admission began, and for about an hour before the show the club was all but deserted.
As the night wore on more people began to trickle in and fill the space. It goes without saying that the club was never packed, but as we neared the performance time the anticipation grew; almost crackling in the air. As KG and I sat on a bench in the back of the club trying to keep low profiles but failing due to our boisterous and creepy personas (we were intimidated by the crowd which seemed populated exclusively by well dressed non-creepy university students), I saw a small frail looking man with a moose bag and an old “My Appalachian Heritage T-shirt” wander into the club looking more like a lost child than a rock star. No sooner had I realized that this man was none other than Bradford Cox (the lead singer of Deerhunter) than he was apprehended by an official looking woman who led him to a backstage area.
Soon however, he reemerged along with his other three band-mates, and then, as it seems is Deerhunter’s humble custom, they set up their own instruments. Bradford complained about how the blue light made him “want to puke” and how the drums sounded like “a box of nails”, to our great amusement. Then, after the majority of the technical difficulties were ironed out, and without ado, they began to play.
The first song, Cryptograms, was technically perfect. Bradford’s voice was sufficiently eerie and disembodied and his band-mates played well, but it was obvious they had not “won us over yet”. Their start had been too casual for anyone to be in the right mindset to enjoy their dreamlike music properly. The next song, Never Stops, was a completely different story. As one of my favorite tracks off of Microcastle, I was super excited to hear it live and it definitely did not disappoint. More guitar driven and intense than the album version, I think I actually appreciated this song more live.
After the next few songs Bradford took a minute to talk with the audience. The following conversation is transcribed here for your enjoyment and needs no introduction:
Bradford: How is everyone tonight? [applause and random yelling] Good! Well we love Munich, we really do… Can you guys understand anything I’m saying?”
Bradford: Oh OK then, well do guys just not care? [stifled laughter] No it’s ok, I’m used to rejection, my whole life has just been a series of rejections.
The following music would prove to completely contradict that statement. Hazel St. was absolutely beautiful, and the next song Rainwater Cassette Exchange, despite the fact that one of the drummer’s drums fell over, was one of the highlights of the night with it’s chilled but slightly groovy beats and Bradford’s fluid vocals.
Although the music was the focus of the evening, one of the best parts of the gig was Bradford’s interaction with the audience. In contrast with Deerhunter’s often heady, dense melodies, Bradford’s demeanor between songs was casual and jokey. His childish and self-deprecating commentary made you feel as if you were in on some amazing inside joke, and that instead of the unapproachable demi-gods most rock groups try to portray themselves as, the Deerhunter boys could be kids from your school or close friends. That kind of honesty was amazingly refreshing. One particularly hilarious moment occurred shortly after Rainwater Cassette Exchange. While the drums were being fixed, Bradford decided to have a conversation with the sound man…
Bradford: OK Guys, so my Dad’s doing our sound tonight. Can you just say something Dad?
“Dad”: You need to hurry up and finish this set so you can clean your room.
Bradford: What Dad? I’m not grounded, you’re grounded.
“Dad”: Now you listen here son…
Bradford: Dad you’re a [censored]ing [censored]er. I’m going to steal your weed again and jerk off to your playboys.
“Dad”: I [censored]ed your mom.
Bradford: It’s legal that you [censored]ed my Mom because you’re my [censored]ing Dad!
Yeah… I know
After that beautiful exchange the boys threw themselves into the second half the set which included Cover Me (Slowly), Agoraphobia, Operation and Circulation. Although Agoraphobia was the real highlight of the show for me (it’s my favorite song from Microcastle) Operation was the crowd pleaser, provoking three drunk friends to dance awkwardly yet entertainingly near the front of the stage.
The set ended, like it began, without fanfare or adulation. The band simply thanked us for showing up and began packing up their instruments. As Bradford put away his pedals near the corner of the stage, I summoned up the courage to go speak with him, the familiar adage found at the beginning of this post repeating maliciously in my mind. Struggling to find words to describe the quality of the music we had just experienced I simply thanked him for playing my favorite song. Our exchange was brief, but it meant alot that he would take the time out to speak to anyone who wanted to talk, especially nerdy old me.
So there you have it. I met someone I deeply respect without insulting their family (like I did to David Sedaris) or asking them a ridiculous question (like I did to Noel Fielding). I shook their hand and looked them in the eye. The concert was amazing, and although I’ve tried I don’t think I could adequately express the gorgeousness of being immersed in the soundscapes those four men were able to create.
Instead, I guess I’ll end with some advice:
1) If Deerhunter come to your town/city/commune, GO! You will have a good time even if you’re not a hip, mature college student.
2) Don’t be afraid to meet your heroes. They could turn out to be just as cool as you think they are.
Mad props to KG for the photos, ticket purchase, and general awesomeness.