“One bite each,” instructed Deerhoof singer/bassist Satomi Matsuzaki, passing a box of Fiddle Faddle into the crowd before their encore. So enamored was she of her first encounter with the candy-coated popcorn in the Valentine’s green room that she had to share. It’s a fitting analogy for the band’s brand of infectious, sugar-high noise rock: at once cute, ridiculous, bombastic and undeniable.
The San Francisco quartet have been doing this now for quite a long time. Twelve albums into their career, their indie star has risen and then settled into a comfortable cruising altitude where there’s less ostensible pressure to deliver the next big thing but also a loyal base of fans who will pack a rock club the size of Valentine’s whenever they’re in town. It also means that Matsuzaki and drummer Greg Saunier’s little kid is old enough to open their shows with a bit of free-form harmonica.
The Deerhoof catalog is vast and full of art-damaged classic rock riffs that sound instantly familiar but only trigger that aha! realization on the drive home that—holy shit—that was “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” or “Rockin’ Me.” It’s not a send-up of cocky rock posture; it’s ADD guitar karaoke, with Matsuzaki singing delicate naïvetés like “Panda Panda Panda.” In sum: the cutest spazz rock out there.
Guitarists John Dieterich and Ed Rodriguez (who was rocking a Seinfeldian puffy shirt) were more than encyclopedic in their riffing interplay. The chopped-and-screwed rhythmic construction of a tune like “I Did Crimes for You” rendered their guitar parts a pair of squalling seagulls that might explode into a flock of volume-controlled noise or instantly drop out, generating a quiet, percolating potential energy as intense as the moments of unhinged kinesis. It’s a sensibility that applied equally to Saunier’s drumming, at turns muscular and delicate on his laughably simple drum kit.
Like a snorted Pixy Stick, this brand of music almost necessitates a sugar crash, yet the set never became woozy. After the mysterious “Buck and Judy,” Matsuzaki handed her Hofner bass to Dieterich and the whole thing escalated into a bout of dirty power rock with strains of fuzzed-out R&B and tropicalia. As they were touring on last year’s Breakup Song, the bulk of the night’s set was new material, but they saved a classic, “The Perfect Me,” to encore.
People Get Ready, a band seemingly branded to be a great opening act, delivered on the promise, passing instruments around the stage, dipping into new wave grooves, minimal electronic and prog forays, pounding out their best tune of the night in 9/8 time with Saunier doubling the percussion.