Even though we didn’t get famous guest appearances, the Dirty Projectors show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg Saturday night was still energetic and fun. Even though the band didn’t play “Knotty Pine,” the song Dave Longstreth penned with David Byrne, unreleased tracks like “Ascending Melody” and awesome oldies like “Fucked For Life” added to a pitch perfect set. Dirty Projectors don’t mess up. They’ve been touring more more than six months. They’ve got the act down.
This is not to say the band’s set was uninspired, but there is something to be said for freshness. While on Sunday night, guests spiced up an otherwise tired set, on Saturday it was just the band of six.
Back in June in a sticky Philadelphia church basement with a low ceiling I saw Dirty Projectors play a very similar set. The difference was time. The band’s acclaimed album, “Bitte Orca,” had just been released and the buzz was thicker than summer BBQ air. They were so excited and grateful for the audience’s support and enthusiasm. On Saturday night the enthusiasm was probably more like, “Thank God I’m Back in Brooklyn.”
Which begs the question: why did all the famous guests drop in at the Bowery Ballroom on Sunday night? Aren’t Dirty Projectors a Brooklyn band? That’s what NYMag said, so it must be true! Perhaps it’s just convenience- The Roots and David Byrne surely live in Manhattan. Right?
All of this may lead you to think the show was boring– it certainly wasn’t. The music Dave Longstreth writes is rich with detail, nuance, complicated chord changes and three-part harmonies that ride on the edge between shrillness and heart-stopping beauty. His band members are all at the top of the heap- not one of them is a mediocre player or singer. Longstreth has assembled the New York Philharmonic of indie-rock. So each amazingly intricate song, “No Intention,” Cannibal Resource,” “Temecula Sunrise,” were performed perfectly. Sometimes you want to scream at how well done the songs are. Sometimes a person wants rare, or medium-rare.
Longstreth is a fan of shifts, cosmic changes, bumps in the road, which is probably why he sets his sets up the way he does. He started Saturday’s show off with a bang, then moved into more delicate territory with Angel Deradoorian taking the vocals on the Nico-esque “Two Doves.” Longstreth accompanies Deradoorian on the guitar and then he and the original four DP’s, (Deradoorian, drummer Brian McComber and guitarist and Longstreth GF Amber Coffman), played a few old-school pre “Bitte Orca” numbers. Longstreth’s old songs are much more raw and abrasive- both lyrically and sonically. “Police Story” is about cops:
“This fucking city, is run by pigs….They hit me across the head, with a billy club.”
Fair enough. None of the new DP’s songs stray into that territory.
The now-considered-epic Dirty Projectors song that Coffman takes the vocals on, “Stillness Is The Move,” was performed toward the end of the set. While Coffman has the pipes of Mariah and the attitude of Joni Mitchell, she didn’t seem to have either going in full force on Saturday. One particular high-note was missed, and singer Haley Dekle backed Coffman up more than on the album. This is really understandable- it’s a tough song and the petite Coffman has been singing it every night for many, many months.
A friend whispered in my ear, “Too bad Solange isn’t here.” If you don’t know what this refers to, click here.
A few words on tUnE-YaRdS. Merill Garbus has got it going on. She is a strange performer who is both rootsy and bluesy but also noisy with punk-inflection. Equipped with only a loop pedal (she must have had at least 5 loops going at a time), two snares and a baritone ukulele, Garbus wove a tapestry of funky indie songs. Where did this woman come from? She sounds like she could be from Ireland or England, or West Virginia, or Seattle-even. A woman born out of many, many inspirations. Here’s one origin story…