Live Review: Devendra Banhart
Download: Devendra Banhart - "This Beard Is For Siobhan"
Download: Devendra Banhart - "Bad Girl"
There are three kinds of opening bands in the world:
Category: Good band that happens to be opening for a bigger seller
Description: This well-respected group could have done a headlining show at the smaller venue down the street, but they aren't.
Your reaction: "I saw Sonic Youth with the Flaming Lips. It was so awesome that my brain melted and dripped out my ears!" Notice that Sonic Youth isn't opening for the Flaming Lips, I've given them a more colleague-colleague type relationship.
Category: "Opening" Opening Bands
Description: This band is OK. They eat up time before the set starts and keep everyone decently entertained. But you probably won't buy their CD and flaunt the new musical gem you found.
Your reaction: "Rio En Medio opened for Devendra Banhart Saturday and they did fine."
Category: Why Has This Band Been Inflicted Upon Me?
Description: Who booked these guys? Are they labelmates? Half the audience has gone out for a smoke, the other half is chit-chatting so loudly that you – thankfully – can't here the audio abomination on stage.
Your Reaction: "Why would The National do this to us?," followed by weeks, if not years, of denial that such a good band actually had such a terrible opener.
If you read carefully, you may have surmised that I went to the Devendra Banhart concert on Saturday.
Rio en Medio opened the show. I went in completely cold (as in, I had never heard of her) and left lukewarm. Musically, Rio (a side project of Danielle Stech-Homsy) was pretty middling. I really dig the whole electro-folk scene, but Rio en Medio was cut from pretty much the same cloth as every other electro folk artist on the market.
But there was this video playing in the background. It starred the multi-instrumentalist who was backing Stech-Homsy at the show. It featured said multi-instrumentalist digging in the sand. And then a shot of him having black stuff poured on his face. And some white pine cones beetles. And a dude wearing a big plush cat head and playing hopscotch. And…you get the idea. Rio en Medio is just "so arty".
And by "so arty," I mean so poorly planned-out, so poorly-made and so fucking pretentious.
Devendra Banhart was absolutely fantastic. He played mostly from the new album, Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon, out September 25th. The Latin-ized folk sound that permeates the whole album is exactly what his career needed at this point to keep from going stale, and it invigorates his live show awesomely. I especially liked "Shabop Shalom," the story of a boy who falls in love with a Rabbi's daughter. The song has a great sense of humor, as well as a robust, balanced sound.
And, I couldn't get away with not mentioning his back up band, Zpiritual Boner. According to Banhart, as many Zs as necessary can be added to the name. They were the best band I've ever seen backing a solo artist. Even Banhart's older material benefited from the full sound provided by Boner's folk prowess.
At every show, Banhart asks the audience if anyone has written any songs lately, and then brings a respondent on stage. Last night's lucky winner was Dina Ree. She ended up being a pretty good performer, especially considering as she went from being out in the crowd to onstage fairly suddenly.
The whole night was pretty magical. To quote the drunk girl behind me who spent the whole night ensuring that no one could enjoy the show in peace, "This is so beautiful. I'm dying." And later on, "I'm dead. I'm crying and I'm dead." I can assure you she was actually none of those things, but the sentiment holds, I think.