I headed from my friend Andi’s pleasant apartment in East Atlanta to Flat Shoals for Thai before the show on a beautiful and surprisingly cool (for Atlanta) summer evening, so we walked around as long as possible, or so we thought. After they let us in, there was a long delay, which turned out to be because the The Dirty Projectors were still en route from Baton Rouge. Finally, Altas Sound opened the show with a five song set that surprised mainly because angel-voiced Bradford Cox (Deerhunter) added a band (three Selmanaires) two days before and they managed to crunch out a fine country-laced set, departing from Bradford’s more electronic Atlas Sound peregrinations. Listen to their set here. We both liked the effort, which I likened to country Radiohead and she compared to early Travis, if that tells you anything. These are definitely worth downloading, even if the band isn’t as polished as it will be by the time they tour in support of the forthcoming Logos EP. Bradford played with the confidence and panache of a salsa champion and the band couldn’t help but follow his lead, even if there was a misstep here and there.
Dirty Projectors, I’m gonna say it, sound better live than on the record, a fascinating listen regardless, but the studio makes it, well, more studied. Or as another attendee put it, “they were sick. and he sounded more real than i imagined. and they were fabulous.” I agree. Live, the timing and precision of vocalists Amber Coffman, Angel Deradoorian, and recent addition Haley Dekle arrested and amazed. The effect was most eerie on an extended version of “Remade Horizon,” when they traded notes so quickly and flawlessly, they sounded as one perfect instrument. I was reminded of a lecture by Brian Eno I attended at Berkeley years ago, when he talked at one point about working with David Bowie for Low, describing how he assembled a “guitar solo” from notes Adrian Bellew played individually (yes, simple now because of his work). Eno admitted he was amazed when Bellew learned to play the impossible solo for the tour, which I caught in Oakland. Theirs was a more impressive accomplishment, their living voices magnified and compelled one to thoughts of spirituality.* Andi and I just looked at each other, awestruck.
Yes, they arrived late, road weary, and Haley was sick, so it might have been excusable for Dave and Co. to phone it in, but the music took over and they played with energy and enthusiasm, working mainly through Bitte Orca featuring Dave Longstreth’s high capoed Afro-Carribean guitar licks and unusual time signatures pinned down effectively by Brian and Nat, but they also included selections from earlier works, like “Rise Above” and a strong David Byrneless version of “Knotty Pine.” “Musical Director” and Yale-alum Dave Longstreth’s vocals were unusually measured, but clear and emotive, and his stage presence was relaxed. He was clearly enjoying himself, joking at one point about the stresses of the road on bands (Amber rolled her eyes), and they stopped to announce that it was Angel’s “18th” birthday, and we all sang to her, so I suppose all of us there can claim to have sung (sloppily, to be sure) with the Dirty Projectors.
*Of course, this was The Earl, and recognizing the aformentioned spirituality for some (like me) meant setting down the beer and saying, “Oh, shit,”or, in the manner of the tilting girl in front of us, throwing up in her cup and passing out while her boyfriend propped her up because he lacked the decency to take her home (“Hey, I paid for this”). Unfortunately, Andi stepped in it, so we didn’t get to hang out much after the show, one worth being relatively sober for given the complexity of the music and the consummate effort of the musicians this cool summer night.
Special thanks to our good friend Marty.
Photos in this post were taken during Dirty Projectors’ July 9 show at the Casbah, San Diego.