Live Review, 7/27/12: Dirty Projectors Churn Out Focused Chaos at the Fox Theater

Dirty Projectors

Wye Oak

Friday, July 27 2012

The Fox Theater, Oakland

Better than: Pretty much all other paradox-driven art-indie experimental post-rock you could come up with. Go ahead, try.

If a live performance by Dirty Projectors sounds frenzied and disorganized — if the cooing harmonies and fuzz-chafed guitars seem bent on overpowering each other — don't worry; it's not because there's any actual chaos going on. Rather, it's because this juxtaposition of bedlam and grace is absolutely essential to the band's sound. Like a model's tousled bedhead or a pair of strategically tattered jeans, a Dirty Projectors show is painstakingly shaped, then presented as an unpracticed and spontaneous event. It is, of course, anything but.

The beating, bleating heart of this illusion is frontman David Longstreth, whose compositional brilliance is offset by his jangly guitar work, abstract rhythmic sensibilities, and downright shocking physical resemblance to a velociraptor on the prowl. Tonight, Longstreth's vocals are by turns sweet, mournful, tortured and ferocious. Not once, however, are they anything less than pitch-perfect. Though this is hardly surprising (Dirty Projectors are rumored to engage in some of the most grueling rehearsals in the world of indie rock), it does re-pose an age-old question: How hard must musicians work in order to appear as though they've ceded control of their art?

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