"devendra is sessy" -Carenish
"Devendra Banhart.. *sigh* you make me smile (: Marry me?" - RaverBabies
"Adam Green is dressed as a pirate so this already rules" -Hello Smashley
When Adam Green (formerly of Moldy Peaches) launched into Edward Elgar's graduation classic, "Pomp and Circumstance," mere seconds after walking on stage, I cringed. His set could go one of two ways: funny-bad, or just plain terrible.
I'm not sure how Adam Green managed to get on the bill last night (8/19). Sure, he was quite a sight to behold in his black pirate hat and complimentary red jacket and Devendra did speak positively of him later in the show (and even called him a 'genius'), but thanks to Green's failed jokes, mediocre talent, copious allusions to drugs, and eye-rolling stage antics, his performance fell flat. To be fair, it was hard to tell if Green knew his act was a total farce or not, but if it was all a joke, he didn't have the charisma or cleverness to pull it off. A bizarre opening band is somewhat fitting for a show headlined by Devendra Banhart, but I expect the eccentricities to be underlined with talent.
In a failed attempt to incite the audience and fulfill his rock 'n roll fantasy, Green kept walking out to the barrier between the stage and the audience and reaching out to people in the front, but with the exception of a handful of fans, the majority of the people in the audience couldn't even muster a response between songs. Instead of pushing forward, they left large pockets of space scattered throughout the floor, which Green found out the hard way when he tried (and failed) to crowd surf, leaving his band mates on stage to cringe in embarrassment as they continued to play.
During the one song that Green attempted to play solo, he managed to forget the lyrics ("I didn't have my passport, so they turned me into snow"), interrupt himself ("What is that echo? Do you hear that?"), and accidentally repeat a verse. By the time he feebly ripped through his white V-neck undershirt as he sang the line "she grabbed me," audible groans mixed with cheers. When he leaped into the pit for another round of (failed) crowd surfing, it wasn't long before the venue's bouncer intervened and tossed him back on stage. Finally, after nearly 50 minutes of shenanigans, Adam Green trounced off stage in his pirate captain garb, but not before briefly stopping mid song to sing a few lines from the chorus of "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" by Green Day.
Suffice it to say that I was relieved (and a bit confused) when a relatively clean-cut man in a button-up shirt and fitted blazer walked on stage. Had Devendra Banhart really traded in his signature look - the messy long hair and mountain man beard? I admit I wasn't convinced it was him until he started singing, and I heard the characteristic warble in his voice. I couldn't help but smile when I realized what he had chosen for his first song - "Long Haired Child."
All of my lingering frustrations about the opening band quickly faded away. The contrast between the two artists was astounding. Green and Banhart may both be showmen, but with the latter, it doesn't feel like a cheap gimmick. Devendra and The Grogs played well off each other. Though the majority of the songs were Banhart's (with the exception of some covers), members from The Grogs often lent their vocal talents to the mix. The interplay between Banhart and Grogs drummer Greg Rogrove was especially compelling early in the set with "Shabop Shalom." Rogrove began the song with a smooth, spoken word introduction turning to Banhart who walked over to sing directly to him in response.
In addition to facilitating a more raucous sound with the help of a backing band, Devendra also appeased the audience by playing a portion of his set solo. The mood in the room shifted dramatically from the first of his solo songs, "The Body Breaks." Suddenly instead of a whirlwind of lights and effects, just two white, immobile spotlights illuminated Banhart first on guitar and then the organ as he played through a handful of older songs.
Midway through his set, Banhart asked for requests and was met by a largely indecipherable jumble of screams. Banhart did his best to address the requests, but each song he sang was enthusiastically received by the audience. He even managed to break a string sometime near the end of the epic song "Seahorse," which featured lovely backing vocals and something bordering on a jam session. He also played a number of entertaining covers, including an impassioned rendition of the Taylor Dayne hit "Tell It To My Heart."
Though he had certainly played a lengthy set, Banhart returned to the stage to rapturous applause and churned out another three songs. Though I often find myself growing restless by the end of a show, this was not the case last night. When I glanced at my watch at the end of the encore, I was surprised to see that Devendra Banhart and The Grogs had played for nearly two hours. Thankfully, the encore did not include a cameo by Green.
More pictures, a video and Devendra's setlist from the show, below...
Devendra Banhart and the Grogs performing Seahorse
Devendra Banhart set list
Long Haired Child
The Body Breaks
Little Yellow Spider
A Sight to Behold
First Song for B
The Charles C. Leary
You Can't Put Your Arms Around a Memory (Johnny Thunders cover song)
Hows About Tellin A Story
To Be Alone (Luckey Remington cover song)
16th & Valencia Roxy Music
Tell It To My Heart (Taylor Dayne cover song)
Diamond Eyes (Rodrigo Ramirez cover song)
Santa Maria de la Feira
This Beard is For Siobhun