The men of Deafheaven raged through the entirety of latest record, New Bermuda.
A steady chill punctuated Portland’s Wonder Ballroom. Cavernous, dark and oftentimes too hot, the Wonder is the venue of choice for mid-level bands that are too big for places like the Doug Fir Lounge and Mississippi Studios but still don’t have the clout to pack out the Crystal Ballroom. When oversold, the Wonder can be difficult to maneuver and often very hot. I once saw a lady pass out there during a Bat for Lashes performance. Yet, someone must have miscalculated for the Deafheaven show. The venue closed the balcony that night. There was plenty space and then some on the floor. Two giant fans continued to blow on the sides of the venue. People kept their jackets on. Maybe the Doug Fir would have been a better choice.
It’s a shame, really, because Deafheaven put on a vivacious and exciting concert, despite middling ticket sales. One of my friends went to see Kurt Vile last week, one of the most laidback acts out there, and said some dickheads were moshing throughout the show. No one moshed during this Deafheaven performance, the perfect music for such an act. There were a lot of dudes with beards wearing black. They stood with their arms crossed. A few people in the front nodded heads vigorously with the music. But that’s about it.
Taking the stage earlier than the posted set time, the men of Deafheaven raged through the entirety of latest record New Bermuda, interrupting the flow of the five songs with a rendition of 2014 single “From the Kettle Onto the Coil.” Singer George Clarke, sporting a hip undercut haircut, spent the evening raging and screaming, reaching out to the enthusiastic few that gathered at the front of the stage. Something was boiling in that man’s soul, his fury even more pronounced by silence during the more melodic portions of the band’s music.
That is what makes Deafheaven’s music so interesting. It can change on the dime from frothy anger to something that sounds like the outro from “Layla.” Somehow, it works. Live, the dynamics are even more pronounced, something they’ve mastered even more since their 2013 breakthrough, Sunbather. Songs stretched to the 10 minute mark in some cases, making the inevitability of the setlist’s order still seem surprising.
Yet, no one crowdsurfed. No one attempted to rush the stage for a stage dive. Maybe it’s the meek Portland audience, but I don’t really buy that. I’ve seen Portlanders get fierce at shows. Earlier this year, Refused played to an explosive crowd, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the same folks came out to see Deafheaven. But maybe Deafheaven aren’t quite ready for a bigger venue. All of those people packed into a smaller place could have got something started. The cold air from the fans didn’t help. For a show that was meant to incite passion, the last thing I wanted was to feel permanently chilled.