If you are a fan of experimental indie rock and live in the DC area there is a fine chance you were in attendance for the Dirty Projectors/Owen Pallett bill at the 9:30 Club Tuesday night. The Domino Records label mates were incredibly sharp in the opening night of their four show trek together on the east coast, but the performances were not without a couple minor flubs, which merely reassured the audience that the performers were indeed human.
The Canadian/loop man/violinist/keyboardist/birthday boy Owen Pallett, formerly known as Final Fantasy, layered all of his tunes mainly with just his violin and loop pedal. If you have never seen or heard of Pallett, think a more interesting, less poppy Andrew Bird. It was truly inspiring to watch Pallett add layer after layer to each song. It was as if he was spreading oil on a canvas, creating a new masterpiece in front of your eyes every four minutes or so. Every one of Pallet’s sounds came from his violin or his pipes with the exception of some sparingly, yet effectively used keys. He performed with more urgency than in his recordings; it was like the fate of the world rested on every word Owen spewed into his mic and sometimes into his violin (in order to texturally add haunting harmonies to the loop). A couple songs into the set, Pallett was joined by guitarist/percussionist/vocalist Thomas Gill. Gill supplied a little more colour to Pallet’s compositions, while adding heavy, driving drum beats with his kick drum and floor tom. Pallett’s magnificent set made me want to explore his catalog beyond his latest offering Heartland.
Led by chief songwriter/guitarist/vocalist Dave Longstreth, the Dirty Projectors, comprised of Amber Coffman (bass/guitar/vocals), Angel Deradoorian (keyboard/vocals), Haily Dekle (percussion/vocals), Brian Mcomber (drums), and Nat Baldwin (bass), emerged from backstage to a raucous sellout crowd. The Brooklyn-based sextet opened with the first track on their critically acclaimed 2009 effort, Bitte Orca, “Cannibal Resource.” After which, Longstreth remarked that they had just filmed a video for the single a few days prior. The Dirty P’s set list, which included all nine gems from the aforementioned Bitte Orca, spanned three albums and two ep’s, including the digital only release Mount Wittenburg Orca which features Bjork. Additionally, the Projectors busted out the high energy two-plus minute key-driven “Knotty Pine” from the Dark Was the Night compilation and closed their set with a beautiful rendition of Bob Dylan’s “As I Went Out One Morning.”
Longstreth’s sporadic twangy finger-picking upside-down-right-handed lead guitar dominated most songs, while the three lovely ladies provided some breathtaking rhythm and bluesy-ish harmonies. The tempo was slowed down close to midway through the first set for a gorgeous rendition of “Two Doves,” which featured just Longstreth on an acoustic guitar and Deradoorian on vocals, while the rest of the band vacated the stage. There seemed to be little variation from the studio versions of the tracks aside from some of Longstreth’s off the wall guitar fills.
Amber Coffman took over the lead vocals on the poppy Bitte Orca single “Stillness is the Move” only to have some trouble “coffing” (wamp, wamp) throughout the song. At one point, it appeared as if she motioned across the stage to Deradoorian to finish the song. This did not stop the rest of the band from jamming out while she regained her composure. Coffman eventually got through the song, sounding as good as ever. She later apologized to the more than sympathetic crowd for coughing into the mic.
All in all, this was easily one of, if not, the best show I’ve attended this year. The erratic drumming and guitar work coupled with the gorgeous harmonies of the three ladies with Longstreth, and the infectious bass lines from Baldwin make the Dirty Projectors one of the most fun and exciting acts playing today.
Dirty Projectors Set List:
Cannibal Resource (YouTube clip)
I Will Truck
Fucked for Life
Stillness is the Move
Fluorescent Half Dome
As I Went Out One Morning