This article was originally printed in The Grape, Oberlin's best and only alternative newspaper.
Is that Mac Demarco? No, that was a few weeks ago. We’ve been through that. Okay, but this guy really looks like he goes here. He’s got fucking paint splattered on his teal colored chinos for god sake. And he just reeks of good taste in music, art, film, etc. All right he might be like, a little too old. Twenty years or so too old. Did he take ten gap years? That’s not entirely unheard of. Oh. I got it. He doesn’t go here. He’s in Deerhoof.
The night after Celestial Shore, Awkafina, and Deerhoof graced the ‘Sco with their presence, Main Street was buzzing with added artisan flare. It was like we had 9 new students, milling around our local haunts, casually strolling from Gibsons to the back of Slow Train like it was their home.
On four twenty the second, or as non-celebratory folks call it, April 22, the eclectic, fantastic, and strange trio of these bands came to Oberlin, all connecting (or intentionally disconnecting) to the audience in their own unique ways.
Celestial Shore opened, the Brooklyn based “math rock” band providing an innovative, hard to dance too, but fascinating set. The point wasn’t to dance to them – it’s sort of contemplative music that makes you think about what music is or isn’t, pairing well with the unclassifiable jam-rock-noise-wonder that is Deerhoof.
Even so, there were times when I felt disconnected, and I’m not sure if that’s because I was so overwhelmed by the B.O. of the person in front of me, or because I was truly, honestly, very self conscious about my limited repertoire of headbob-centric dance moves. While it wasn’t something I would blast with my windows rolled down, nor play quietly while reading Foucault, they engaged the ever-widening crowd with their tunes and rather infectious stage presence.
But Awkafina was really something. To be honest, I thought her name was Orangina until recently. She mixed her homemade beats (very clear that she made them herself) with a comical, witty dose of raps, that while smart, focused primarily on topics related to the lower extremities – ranging from an ode to queefs (corresponding dance move included) to a self-serving manifesto about the superior nature of having a vagina. Her raps, while not incredible, veered into Childish Gambino or Chance territory, heaping a dose of sassy social commentary along with (sort of) catchy and relevant tunes. Overall though, I felt her humor overrode any other intention of the music – it became less about the music and more of a sing-songy stand up set. That said, she seems incredibly self aware of what her music is or isn’t, and as such, should be seen in all her geeky-glassed-beanie-wearing-badassness, staking her claim as an Asian female rapper in a genre that is often inhospitable to marginalized voices.
Deerhoof, the band we’ve all been waiting for, was amazing. I don’t know how else to explain it – because it was, in many ways, unexplainable. And while their choice of opening bands could be similarly mystifying, it makes sense that an eclectic and genre bending band as themselves would gravitate towards innovative artists, regardless of how well it “meshed” with their own obscure sound. But really, does everyone love Deerhoof? It seems Oberlin students and the blogosphere alike herald Deerhoof, relegating them to a distinctly elite group of musicians that are so different than anything else, and yet, almost unanimously critically acclaimed. Deerhoof, described via some as experimental art rock, or noise pop, started in San Francisco (surprise!). They’ve toured with everyone from the Flaming Lips to Radiohead, played with David Bowie and Yoko Ono. You get the point. They’re a big deal who still manage to be, relatively speaking, incognito enough to keep challenging how we think of music. There’s something enticing about how they continue to push boundaries, retaining the freedom to tour with whom they want and play whatever the fuck they want.
Drummer Greg Saunier graduated from Obie with a degree in composition, and during one strange stage interaction, was asked to acknowledge his time here. He sort of feebly evaded the question, but made up for it – obviously – when he played the fuck out of the drums .Did you know Saunier did the drum solo and soundtrack for the movie Stepbrothers? Now you do, fun fact! Though Saunier dodged the relevance of Oberlin to his current endeavors, the technical skill of his performance defied this point, and mixed with the energy of his band mates, overlaid with the childish but incredibly haunting voice of lead singer Satomi Matsuzaki, it was something all of us can look at, and say, “look ma! He went to Oberlin. Maybe I’ll be something too.”
The noise pop name really encompasses it all – the show shifted unpredictably between something undeniably catchy to something so fleeting, so close to what you recognize and yet distinctly challenging categorization or organic dance moves. If this article didn’t make you feel incredibly guilt for missing out, let me explicitly add insult to injury: if you missed this, you should have FOMO for the rest of your being. The end.