Devendra Banhart; Bares His Soul

Laid back beats and pure heart driven vocals filled the air last night. Devendra Banhart and the Grogs were the main act, with the opener Dorothy and the Originals. The atmosphere was very casual but the excitement and anticipation of the crowd was overwhelming. Delicate melodies and folky riffs fueled the emotional lyrics of the night. It was an all encompassing good times feel for the most part.

The venue was very scarcely filled during the initial moments of the doors opening. Steadily the number of entrants climbed until the opener took the stage shortly after nine. Dorothy and the Originals is a very obscure almost outsider music styled, accapella set. The entire band consists of a solitary woman, Dorothy, on stage singing the vocals in harmony with a backing track of her own prerecorded vocals. The sound was completely harmonized and made for some very beautiful moments. It was quite strange to see, and almost had the feel that each song was a great precursor to a powerful song waiting to leap out. This was an artsy foray into a category I like to call Look-What-I-Can-Do-With-Protools. I would say it has no staying power in the music industry, but makes for a great one off gimmick to see on a tour.

The crowd was very one dimensional, paisley shirts and wannabe flower children, filled the venue. The obscurity of the attendees was what unified them. The look of the group seemed to be a re-embodiment of Woodstock. The tangy scent of clove cigarettes and patchouli lingered in the air. The only thing different from this crowd and their 60s predecessors was the the aggressiveness of this mass. Every so often a small pushing match would erupt through out the congregation on the floor. A brief territorial display as late comers tried to elbow there way to the front and center position.

Soon enough the lights fell once more and Devendra Banhart and the Grogs lined the stage. The group is very soft spoke between songs, but the lyrics they sing have powerful emotion behind them. The hippie sway of the fans on the floor, to the rhythm of each piece, was almost hypnotizing. Within the first few songs, Devendra was left alone on the stage and entertained the crowd. A simple solo set of himself with a guitar and a solitary light above. It made for a somber yet powerful presentation.

The rest of the night carried off with a great acceptance of the audience. This is definitely an obscure cult type band, and there following is also of the same style. Those who do not know this group, are not alone. The few who follow Devendra and his men are well versed in the poetic expression, his visual displays and his oneness with the earth.

Seeing this show at a venue like the Commodore Ballroom was a little strange in itself. You would be more accustomed to seeing something of this style in a field in the summer. The feel of the dewy grass between your toes as the new age Sheppard spread his musical word. It all seemed to pan out very well though. The acceptance of the dedicated fans at the show is awe inspiring. By no means was the music perfect, nor was the sound quality close to great. The fans seemed unphased by this and applauded madly throughout the night.

I wouldnt really suggest this band to anyone. It is quite genre specific and will only appeal to a small number of people. The songs are great, and the lyrics are phenomenal, I could really see some other style musicians getting there hands on these pieces and really making them something much more explosive. Devendra Banhart is a singing songwriter and it shows, every lyric is hard coded to an emotion he has had. Letting go and hearing everything he had to say was like a deep look inside his heart.

Overall the experience was beautiful, but like a snowflake, it could never be repeated. Its like a seeing a movie with a shocking twist, it was great at the time, but the next time you would already be aware of the ending. Devendra Banhart and the Grogs gave their all, and after that there is nothing more to return for.

Happy Concerting

Jamie Taylor
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