REVIEW: Deerhunter, Real Estate, Casino vs. Japan

The Magic Stick in Detroit is the kind of venue in which one could live a fulfilling life without ever leaving.  Downstairs: bowling, pizza, theater.  Upstairs: cozy music venue, bar, billiards, deck with (another) bar.

Despite the amenities, I hadn’t been to a show that more than half-filled the Magic Stick.  This show finally did it.  The night began with Casino vs. Japan, a minimal electronic act celebrating a recent reissue on semi-local Moodgadget Records.   I was surprised to see Casino vs. Japan on the bill, not only because the music is very different from the other two acts, but because minimal electronic music usually doesn’t lend itself well to live performances.  And as I arrived towards the end of the set, my suspicions were confirmed: pale dude behind a laptop wearing a beanie.

The gathering crowd showed appreciation, and towards the end of the set I realized that this type of music could fill an important role on a split bill like this one.  Rather than the typical classic rock and stale pop piped in through the PA as the crowd assembles, live minimal music allows for milling about and holding conversations in the same way, but at least there’s something creative going on in front of you.

During Real Estate’s set, the crowd thickened considerably, growing to include: a group of kids who couldn’t have been more than 12 years old, many, many teenagers in plaid shirts, and a girl with gold shoulders who brought with her a group of overdressed college students who pushed everyone aside to get to the front and take a bunch of iphone photos of themselves.  And do you guys remember the Bash Brothers from The Mighty Ducks?  They were there.   I guess that’s what a Pitchfork Best New Music review earns you.

Real Estate played an impressive set, embellished with a couple new tracks from the guitarist’s solo project, Ducktails.  If you could describe Real Estate’s set as relaxing, which it was, Deerhunter’s was anything but.  The distinctive affected and noisy sound of Deerhunter was augmented by an unexpected energy that slowly built throughout the set.  Perhaps it was the stage presence of the front man, Bradford Cox, who despite his weak and skinny appearance due to Marfan syndrome, was able to interpret his emotional involvement in every song in a physical way throughout the 90+ minute set.  Or perhaps it was the carefully constructed set list that consistently grew in intensity and encompassed material from their three most recent albums and EPs.  Or maybe it was just the mosh pit that formed several times, stressing the floorboards of the Magic Stick in an alarming manner.  Either way, I was past the point of exhaustion by the time the last song ended.

Final thought:  Avoid the Bash Brothers when moshing.  Seriously, those guys weigh at least 300 pounds a piece.  No match for skinny hipsters.