I regret not having the space to cover the spellbinding sets at this show by opening acts North, Sex Prisoner, and Destruction Unit, and highly recommend these bands to any fan of aggressive music.
Headliner Deafheaven has received the level of universal acclaim over the last year that superstars like Jay Z would have to purchase. The San Francisco quintet’s most recent album, Sunbather, was called a “modern masterpiece” by Pitchfork and made it to the upper half of Spin’s “50 Best Albums of 2013” list, celebrated as a groundbreaking fusion of black metal and shoegaze. It would be hard for anyone to live up to that kind of hype, but even more difficult to fail so profoundly by any and every standard that music is praised for.
The lack of charisma that Deafheaven’s four instrumentalists displayed is usually reserved for stock props, which is exactly what they were. The spotlight was for singer George Clarke, who sashayed onto the stage, prissy enough to make Brandon Flowers look like a thuggish bully who steals lunch money. Clarke made bizarre hand motions and facial expressions in between pretending to conduct the band. Marching back and forth in a bad portrayal of a Roman Emperor, chin held higher than the uptight straight man in a British sit-com – Clarke’s a funny little guy. My personal favorite cry for help was when he licked his hand and then offered it to the crowd to taste his essence. It was as self-aggrandizing as, say, Kim Jong Un, with whom Clarke shares a hairstyle.
Speaking of fascism, Deafheaven has taken an interest in associating themselves with neo-Nazi bands, often wearing these groups’ t-shirts in concert. So when Clarke’s arm motions turned into Hitler salutes, it wasn’t that shocking. Actually, the Sieg-heiling was more yawn-inducing than an Ambien. I don’t believe for a second that he’s a Nazi; he stole his moves from the artists he copies, like Joy Division or Siouxsie Sioux, whose Nazi flirtations in the ‘70s as teenagers were aimed at irritating their WWII-veteran parents. Poor Clarke thinks he’s provocative, but he’s foolish, dull and desperate for attention.
If you’re still interested what Deafheaven’s music sounds like, imagine a tepid imitation of a My Bloody Valentine feedback loop, over which a pterodactyl shrieks itself into extinction.