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Deerhoof Stomps out the Competition at the Ranch

The Ranch
Columbia, MO

Every once in a while, you see a band that’s just so terrible that you might call them “the worst band ever.” On this night, at least for this writer, Minus Story earned that dubious sobriquet. Comprised of four men from Boonville, MO, Minus Story, at its best, comes off as a rockier version of Dashboard Confessional doing horribly heartfelt covers of classic indie rock songs. Of course, Minus Story isn’t a cover band, and that’s too bad, because that means the responsibility of the lackluster material lands squarely on the people performing it.

Luckily, Kansas City’s the Ssion came out next to clear the air. As three-fifths of the band stood posed and ready to play, from the back of the room came a high-pitched voice announcing, “Make way, I’m a diva!” The voice, as it turned out, belonged to a skinny man with an afro/ponytail combo and what appeared to be a cat face crudely illustrated over his own. The “diva” was Cody Critcheloe – the man responsible for the artwork for Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Fever to Tell, and, oh yeah, the lead singer of the Ssion. Primitive Sabbath-esque guitars, danceable basslines, and precise drumming made clear the band’s dedication to musicianship. However, the set belonged to Critcheloe– acting like a modern day gay version of Iggy Pop, the ebullient frontman stomped around, thrashed, and generally made clear who called the shots during the group’s half-hour set. By the end of it, the crowd was recharged and ready for the headliner.

Standing at about the height of your average fifth-grade girl with a voice to match, Deerhoof vocalist Satomi Matsuzaki didn’t seem a likely candidate to lead her band through a storm of a set. But that’s exactly what she did, changing many an “Aww, isn’t she cute?” face to a “Whoa, isn’t she incredible?” one. Nearly every one of the songs was incredibly spastic, speeding up, slowing down, starting and stopping on a whim, frustrating the rhythm of even the artiest of the arty dancers at the front of the crowd: They had to be careful not to settle in with what felt like a standard two-guitar riff session, because a complete shift of tempo was likely right around the next corner, followed by a blitzkrieg of drums from out of nowhere. Amid the frenzied blaze was Matsuzaki, pointing around the room and at people in the crowd at key points during songs, play acting with a stuffed banana and strawberry (symbols from the cover of the San Fransisco band’s latest release, Milk Man) and bobbing in time with her bass.

The energy didn’t let up either, despite some sound difficulties, until the set was over. Cajoled by the eager crowd, Deerhoof played a one-song encore before Matsuzaki courteously said, “Thank you, good night.” As seemingly meek and innocent as this concluding statement appeared, it actually served as a modus operandi of Deerhoof’s set and the night overall–start slow, build up steam, and never let them figure out what kind of greatness you’re going to throw at them next.