Deerhunter, Lower Dens
"The Kitten is becoming softer", Bradford Cox observes while the intimate Belfast crowd quietly chuckle in agreement. The warm atmosphere is coaxed in early on thanks to the enchanting ambience of the Baltimore support band, Lower Dens. The bluesy guitars and delicate vocals from Jana Hunter create the perfect potion for gently intoxicating the audience into a state of relaxation. 'Holy Water' from their 2010 debut album Twin-Hand Movement, is particularly powerful. Eyes stare into the distance, for the duration of the song and it takes a moment's pause once over for everyone to snap out of the hypnosis. The kraut-style bass lines and reassuring thud of the drums quietly but confidently paves the way for the headline band.
Deerhunter's Bradford Cox edges on stage wearing a big baggy hoody, alongside his equally understated band-mates. For the next hour and a half they bowl over all in their presence. It's difficult to stick to writing a review when an effusive fan letter seems more appropriate.
Classic track 'Nothing Ever Happened' from third album Microcastles has the crowd head-swaying with satisfaction. Newer track 'Revival' throbs with retro-esque tones and exotic rumba percussion sounds. Cox plays most of the set stood in the same spot, but when he chooses to move about between songs he prowls like an ocelot, joking around with his audience who are all eyes and ears.
Meanwhile Josh Fauver on bass looks as nonchalant and unphased as a basking seal, accompanying Cox's parodic on-stage banter through the aid of the humorously cliche, 'I Just Want to Make Love to You' bass line.
'Memory Boy' provides fans with pleasingly poetic moments, as Cox recalls "the smell of loose leaves, joints on jeans", and laments "it's not a house anymore". The recollection of childhood memories is reminiscent of Arcade Fire's debut album 'Funeral', but Deerhunter are subtler. The lyrical concepts are embedded in rich reverb and often juxtaposed by a chorus of stomping, abrasive guitars.
'He Would Have Laughed' dabbles in poetic profundity too. Cox calls out, "I won't rest till I can't breathe" and sings "In sweetness comes suffering". That sense of duality seems to be reflective of Deerhunter's music as a whole - it's delicate yet hard hitting, it's deeply personal yet overwhelmingly welcoming. The intimacy of the music is enhanced by the band's personable stage presence. They are the antithesis of the 'we need to appear untouchable' rock band. So much so that they even stage their own encore. "Let's not walk off" Cox says, playfully tossing his hand in exasperation at the usual gig encore etiquette. They pretend anyway for the joke of it, skulking off stage just for a second. Upon return Cox explains, "We had to go to the bathroom - stay away from that area". By this point it would take a lot to scare the Stiff Kitten crowd away. Deerhunter round things off with 'Octet' from Cryptograms. The hopeful, bouncy bass line and triumphant vocal chants soften the crowd of the Kitten into complete submission.