Deerhunter, Deakin & Casino vs. Japan at Exit/In, 11/10/10

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Judging by all the Pylon and Velvet Underground live bootlegs playing through the PA before the show started, The Spin had a feeling it would be a good night — and we weren't the only ones. Maybe we’ve been going to the wrong shows, but it’s been a while since we've seen people already claiming their spots at the front of the Exit/In stage at 8:30 p.m., much less on a Wednesday night.

Casino vs. Japan, brain child of Kentucky-based Erik Kowalski, kicked the night off with a slowly building set of droned-out loops and samples. His music felt more like a dark part of the house music than a stand-alone set, but there’s only so much of a show one can put on standing alone behind a bunch of electronic gizmos. “His set’s pretty cool, but I really wish I could see what he’s doing,” said a fellow concertgoer. So did we.

Having never heard Deakin, our expectations were none too high. Watching him set up felt predictable — sampler: check; drum machine: check; super-effected vocals: check. We thought we’d be treated to a mediocre Animal Collective side project, but were we ever wrong. Hearing Deakin, who is still technically a member but hasn’t played with the band for a few years, helps make sense of the stylistic shift between the last two A.C. records. Between the glitch-tinged beats and delay-drenched melisma vocals, we clearly saw his contributions to Strawberry Jam. Most artists of his ilk tend to overstay their welcome in a live setting, but Deakin’s short-but-sweet set, clocking in at just over a half-hour, left us seeking out the merch table.

Anticipation swelled as people started squeezing forward for the best possible spot. Last time we saw Deerhunter play in town, it was to a lukewarm audience of maybe 150 people, so this buzzing, sold-out room was quite a nice surprise — bravo, Nashville. The band began the last night of their Halcyon Digest tour with guitarist Lockett Pundt singing the extended guitar jam “Desire Lines.” Singer Bradford Cox politely thanked the audience for coming out, and throughout the set, he and his bandmates wove seamlessly between ambient, looping songs that reminded us of their Cryptograms era, and new song after new song. Josh Fauver and Moses Archuleta kept the beat steady and the low end constant while the guitars freely looped and interlocked.

The highlight of the set was “Helicopter." Giving the Halcyon Digest single an extended delayed-guitar intro and a slightly slowed-down tempo, Deerhunter showed that, if anything, they can translate their album cuts into refreshingly changed-up live versions. With its overdriven climax and 10-minute ambient outro, set closer “Calvary Scars” truly made it feel like the end of the show, the end of the night, and the culmination of a tour.

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