Live Report: Dirty Projectors @ Cedar Cultural Center


11 November 2009

Minneapolis, MN


I had the dumb luck to see the Dirty Projectors in concert before I’d ever heard of them, when they played an opening set for the band I had paid to see, Grizzly Bear, about three years ago. It was a nice little revelation.

Frontman David Longstreth did his funky-pigeon neck dance, tickling those kinetic African chords out of a lefty Fender. Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian — new additions to the band as I recall — plucked and noodled and cooed like a pair of doe-eyed robots fused together with various musical parts from inside Longstreth’s Brooklyn laboratory.

It was all very syncopated and dancey, very Talking Heads. My friend Tom and I knocked back tallboy Sierra Nevadas and wiggled our midsections. There was a song about Longstreth losing his bike or getting pulled over on his bike or something. The songs didn’t really matter that first show. I was having a great time,, and I distinctly remember remarking (as I would many times thereafter) that Longstreth, a rising indie star who was knocking me on my ass to watch perform, was about my same age, and even looked like some of the people I went to school with. They were the quiet, awkward kids… the artistic kids. Silly me, I put most of my energy into sports back then, with little foresight as to how my opportunities and interests would soon shift. Surprise: the goofballs won out. I mean, I’m the one standing here, right?  Paying to watch Longstreth’s bewildering, completely unique art.

Well now it’s 2009 and the stakes are far higher. The band has played Letterman and toured Europe. Blanket praise has come from all directions, including David Byrne himself, who commissioned Dirty Projectors to write a song around a set of his lyrics. The venue is still tiny — the Cedar is basically a church basement with Surly on tap — but personally, as a listener, I’ve spent a lot more time in the intervening years reading reviews and watching videos. Basically, I won’t be bowled over again by sound alone. Songs — however you want to define the term… musical ideas with a beginning, middle, and end… a canvas with a frame around it — will have to shine through this time. Otherwise I’m out.

Luckily, Dirty Projectors released an album this year, Bitte Orca, that is rife with accessible jams. The band’s set at the Cedar thankfully relied on these, kicking off with the thumping album opener, “Cannibal Resource”. In addition to Coffman and Deradoorian, Longstreth has now brought in a full-time bass player and a third female vocalist (who looks like Winona Rider), so the coast is clear to reproduce those tricky vocal passages from “Remade Horizon”. Deradoorian seemed in a particularly dour mood, which actually was beneficial to the Nico-inspired “Two Doves”. Perhaps she’s just jealous that Coffman gets to sing lead on “Stillness Is the Move”, which features some fun Mariah Carey freestyling toward the end.

Going forward, I’d hope Longstreth can knock out more dance songs on par with “Stillness”, since they work so well live. Without sacrificing the DP’s patented weirdness, that track actually has a rhythm that doesn’t change up after fifteen seconds, which may be why everyone — band and audience — appears to be having the most fun while it’s being played.

But what do I know? I’m just a dumb jock!


1 Response to “Live Report: Dirty Projectors @ Cedar Cultural Center”

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