Written By: Cassandra McGrath Photo By: Showbiz Clique
On Halloween night at the Jensen Recreation Center, Dave Longstreth, the lead singer of the experimental Brooklyn band the Dirty Projectors, took the stage in an oversized Styrofoam cowboy hat, with a guitar re-strung to play left-handed.
He began to play a crackling, backwards guitar riff and howled into the microphone, while the audience danced along, the best we could. This type of music is hard to identify. People often toss around the term “afro-punk” when they discuss The Dirty Projectors, but the best comparison might be to the wordly sensibilities of the Talking Heads. The more accessible the Projectors sound gets, the better they become.
I must admit that I was not a fan of Rise Above, Longstreth’s re-imagining of Black Flag songs committed from memory. The songs were too unfocused and self-indulgent, and the singing veered towards screaming too often. However, with the indie hit “Bitte Orca” (which means “please whale” in German), the band came into its own, balancing odd, galloping pop songs with hypnotic, shifting rhythms.
It was great fun on Saturday night to watch the audience dancing to “Useful Chamber” and gearing up to hit the main chorus, in which Longstreth plays a guitar riff that sounds like a broken music box and cries, “Bitte Orca, Orca Bitte!” The audience expects the band to rip the chorus on an identifiable beat, and instead Longstreth begins to sing on an off-beat, tripping up everyone on the dance floor, including the man in a giant bunny suit.
Though the acoustics in the Jensen Recreation Center were not ideal (after all, the center was likely created with basketball shooting range in mind), the band’s timing was, for the most part, sparkling. The Projectorettes (Amber Coffman, Angel Deradoorian, and Haley Dekle) were astounding, and Longstreth was charismatic.
Angel Deradoorian sang “Two Doves” and sounded better than the record, if that were possible. The only letdown was the terrific song “Stillness is the Move.” Amber Coffman’s r&b-style vocals were drowned out by a dominant bass, and she ended up screaming into the microphone; the resulting song sounded nothing like the number I have danced to in my room many a time.
The opening band Little Wings was unremarkable except for trying to decide whether the lead singer, Kyle Field, was dressed up as a bum for Halloween or not. Missing tooth, check. Dirty hair, check. Gum chewing on stage, check. Bandage on face and dirty clothing, check. General disconnect to environment (measured by glazed look in the eyes), check. Songs, whatever. It was all about the Projectors, and they certainly delivered.