Devendra Banhart at Berbati’s Pan, Nov. 17

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the opening act, Scout Niblet, and was a little surprised when a waifish, blond girl wearing a hunter-orange safety jacket took the stage. Her first song was about her lack of style, and although it earned her points for honesty, its truthfulness was embarrassing. She played simple harmonies on her guitar and occasionally attempted distorted adventures in "rocking out" albeit unsuccessfully.

I really didn’t want to compare her to Chan Marshall, mainly because that comparison is used so frequently with solo female performers, but shit, she sounded a lot like Chan Marshall. And then she switched to the drums, just her voice and drums. I think this instrument combination could work, perhaps if the musician was skilled at both, but I didn’t really think she was very good at either. I know I’m being a little harsh, and a friend later told me that this was "her thing." Meaning, I guess that this is what she’s known for, but it was pretty bad.

Devendra and his commune of free-lovin’ long-hairs were up next. Actually, he started out the set solo, giving everyone the opportunity to bask in his folksy guitar playing virtuosity and his warbly, Bolan-esque singing style. I was enjoying the first few songs, but became discouraged when his four guitar-playing brothers joined him on stage. Okay, so one of them played bass, but still, there were four guitar players on stage at this point if you included Devendra, and considering the amount of sound he was able to produce alone, I was beginning to think of this as overkill. Didn’t any of these hippies take piano lessons as kids?

And then I surprised myself and just listened to them. They were really good, and the addition of these guys brought out a lot of harmony in Devendra’s songs – the guy doing back-up vocals was really hitting the notes and the guitar player who looked a little like Frampton had tone sweet enough to give me a cavity. Woot! I was actually enjoying a jam band and knew that is was only a matter of minutes before I grew a beard and smelled bad.

The rest of the show was all about free love and free dancing, and if I’d done more acid as a teenager, I’m sure I’d have flashed back. However, I managed to snap out of my hippie brainwashing towards the end of the set and was able to realize that reggae covers are best left to the Clash. I was really happy to see him play with a band, and actually much prefer it to seeing him solo. He’s going to have to learn that just because all his friends play guitar, it doesn’t mean they should all play with him.