Thursday, April 01, 2010

Live Review: Devendra Banhart

Devendra Banhart & the Grogs
Regency Ballroom
San Francisco, CA
3.23.10

Freak folk. Gypsy rock. Hippie shit. More often than not, when you read an article about Devendra Banhart you also hear one of the above qualifiers as the writer attempts to describe Banhart's music. Whatever you want to call it, Banhart's music is as unique as the man himself.

After warming to Devendra's brand of rock 'n roll and many lazy Sunday afternoon's spent with an album of his blaring on the surround sound, it was definitely time to check him out live. How would the songs translate live? How are his backing band, The Grogs? A last minute venue switch to the Regency Ballroom put another wrinkle of wonder in our minds as we made our way downtown to the show.

The mellow Tuesday night crowd warmed up as Banhart (looking more indie hipster with short hair/two-day stuble, tight jeans and French sailor shirt) and the Grogs casually strolled out  and kicked off a two hour musical party that indeed covered the spectrum of musical styles - finger picking acoustic, full on 70's space rock, surf rock, tripped out latin grooves, reggae and even a metal jam.

With this melting pot of musical genres and layered vocal harmonies, the need for the Grogs to actually know how to play is an absolute necessity, and the band stepped up and made it look way too easy. With members of Priestbird and Little Joy in the Grogs, we seemed to be privy to a private jam session between musical friends where the physical stage barrier melted away and the party kicked into high gear. Devendra even surrendered the spotlight and mic several times to give the other guys in the band a chance to play some of their own tunes.

Devendra played a mini acoustic set that seemed to fit right in to the evening's mellow-but-we-can-still-rock-it-when we feel like it attitude.  The band pretty much covered most of his discography, including last year's What Will We Be album.. Highlights included a rockin' "Seahorse", "Baby", "Long Haired Child" and a version of "First Song for B" that saw all the typical background noise of a rock show die down to a hush as Banhart performed solo behind a keyboard.

Hell, we even got a few verses of "Chinese Children" and a show stoppin' version of "I Feel Just Like a Child". And by the end of the night, it was no longer a sleepy Tuesday night, but a night just beginning and the central question on everyone's mind being "where to next?".

Live color photos by Gretchen Robinette and used without permission from this blog.

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