Deerhoof, Nice Nice, Problems
For the past three or so years, I recall hearing big buzz about Deerhoof. So when I saw that they were coming to town I figured that maybe it was finally time to check them out. It seemed a good omen that this week the Mercury said they had the best live show there is, so naturally I was expecting good things when I arrived at Berbati’s Pan an hour after doors opened.
After a wait of what seemed like an hour – although only about six minutes – openers Problems took the stage and proceeded to bore the shit out of me with their drums-keyboard-bass assault. It was like listening to bad Doors with no Jim Morrison or guitar player, and my friend that had unwisely chosen to accept my offer of a free concert actually fell asleep with his head on the monitor. I thought it would get better with Nice Nice, a band I had seen and knew to be all right, and it did. But guitar troubles rendered their set of pedal-driven noise exploration anticlimactic.
Finally, after another hour or so of waiting, Deerhoof began to set up, which took about half an hour. And how did they live up to the hype and good reviews? Obvious band enthusiasm: plus. Teasing me with a hint of a good riff or interesting chord progression, only to melt into freaky free-jazzy improv: minus. Lead singer Satomi’s expressive vocal stylings: plus. Head-banging dorks next to me: big minus. In summation, Deerhoof sounded okay but were nowhere near the gods they have been made out to be. Buy their record, but don’t go to their show unless you enjoy using the monitors as a pillow.
I was late to Herr Cooper’s show because you can’t go to an Alice Cooper show without proper makeup. I looked ghoulishly fabulous and so did the rest of my entourage in our respective black makeup. The show had already begun 15 minutes before we got there, opening with “Billion Dollar Babies,” but by the time we got in he was well into “Is It My Body.” The crowd was mainly folks in their middle age who reminded me of the cops in that scene at the district attorney’s conference in Hunter S. Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas.” I started to think that most of them actually were the grown-up rebellious sons of those same cops. Despite them blocking my view – and their ever-present armpit odor – the show was still enjoyable.
The act was a blend of all Alice’s repertoire from various eras into one long rock opera, full of the usual Alice Cooper stage-antics, everything from coffins to his infamous guillotine act – which I could not for the life of me figure out. He didn’t throw any live chickens into the audience but he did throw out a magician’s baton that was wrestled out the hands of a friend of mine by a gang of what she described as “meatheads.”
As a performer, Alice is still on top of his game. Despite being in his late 50’s he hasn’t lost his stage presence in the least. His daughter Calico Cooper – who is far more talented than Kelly Osbourne by the way – also took part in the proceedings. At one point in the act she did a hilarious impression of Paris Hilton. It was disappointing that he didn’t play “18” or “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” but you can’t get everything, and he did at least play “School’s Out,” which blew me and everyone else away. A drunken acquaintance of mine described it best: “Our pathetic lives have been made better because we saw ALICE COOPER!”