Black Lips and Deerhunter at The Commodore

Photos by Jon Healy

Both bands were much better at Richards. Maybe it was the venue, or the fact attendees could step outside for some fresh air and a doobie. But one has to remember the Black Lips on some drink-fueled evening in 2007 when they showed up late because of border troubles. Everyone in the club drank themselves stupid in anticipation, and by the time they hit the stage, just about everyone was shuffling a drunken tango across the dance floor.

But that now seems an era ago. Dick’s on Dicks is deceased, leaving few venues of that intimacy in the city. Certainly, the Commodore doesn’t have that. Certainly not with the Rogers logo glowing on the back wall. Two screens at the front flashing Live Nation ads. We can’t even go outside to get away from it all, to get some air, since the smoking ban came into effect.

I overhear two people say:
“I don’t like what’s happening to the Commodore.”
“They’re whoring it out. Like everything else in this city. It’s all prep for the Olympics.”

DHBLAnd it’s true – the gawdy advertisements were set in opposition to the legion of too-cool-for-anything kids in skinny jeans and flannel (like me).

But, the Black Lips did their best to slaughter the commodification woes of its now rowdy audience. They break into what a lesser writer would call “sonic assaults” with kids stage-diving. It’s been ages seen I’ve seen some good old fashioned crowd surfing.

When Deerhunter played Richards last November, the sounds were tight and up front, like a plastic sheet housing the vibrations were pressed against my face. Drums, guitars, those weird droning sounds – all of it, right up front. The Commodore isn’t built for this kind of sound. Where the Black Lips’s punk swagger filled the venue with distorted guitars, Deerhunter’s shoegaze sort of drifted along, with the drums all pushed the back, lacking the intimcacy of that last great show, at that long-gone-but-not-forgotten venue. The ethereal ambled along and the nuances of their sound were muddled between the wide walls of the venue. They lacked the ferocity that makes their albums – and usually their live shows – a thrilling experience and the set lost its momentum after a roaring version of “Nothing Ever Happened.”

The rest of the set just plodded along and it was happy to do so. It never reaches a ripping climax – something 2008’s Microcastle did wonderfully – but that wasn’t a bad thing, necessarily. There just wasn’t enough marijuana going around.