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Monday, 03 June 2013 18:38

Concert review: Darwin Deez (with Crushed Out and Bo and the Locomotive) play 'crabcore' rock at the Demo, Sunday, June 2

Concert review: Darwin Deez (with Crushed Out and Bo and the Locomotive) play 'crabcore' rock at the Demo, Sunday, June 2 facebook.com/darwindeeez
Written by Blair Stiles

It was a hell of a weekend for music lovers of St. Louis. On Friday James Murphy came to town and induced a feral dance party at 110 BPM, while Pokey LaFarge and Dave Alvin drew hundreds of roots-music fans to Casa Loma and Off Broadway; on Saturday a riptide of the best local bands churned their audiences in and out of the current along Washington Avenue for the Riverfront Times Music Showcase, while Son Volt performed at the Pageant; and on Sunday night Darwin Deez graced us with its weightless, magical presence at the Demo.

The night began with Brooklyn's Crushed Out. The duo of Frank Hoier (guitar/vocals) and Moselle Spiller (drums) played propulsive, blues-infused surf pop that surged into the Demo with crisp, full-bodied sound. Tracks like "Sharkbite" off 2012's "Want to Give" could have snuck easily into a Surfaris' record. Its lead riff, a coiled patch 1960s Beach Boy's guitar tone, sounded as dangerous as Australian surf when Great Whites are on patrol. Hoier signed off with "Peace, Love, and Rock 'n' Roll" before launching into "Ghost of Bo Diddly" off 2010's "Show Pony." The Echoplex tape machine he used made a guitar echo as electrified as the reaction to an unexpected apparition. Spiller left her kit halfway through the song to join the dance floor with her tambourine in tow. Later in the evening, it would be two audience members who left their usual place on the floor for the stage.

Bo and the Locomotive's 2011 debut, "On My Way" is a beloved record in St. Louis. It has become the kind of record that satiates and whets the appetite for future records for the band. Thankfully, the band played a set that meshed its debut and tracks off the upcoming record. "Darling," "On My Way," "Headaches" and "Give Me Something" bled into one another with the clever head-to-toe transitions. Each song seemed primed to segue into the next before its successor was realized. The front half of Bo's sets often feel like home. That familiarity and consistency will always be there. If their second record is anything like "On My Way," "Never Afraid"'s synth patches will always be a new, exciting step into a future sound for the band. "Man Lived Off the Land," "Grass" and "Pistol" will sound just as perfect as "Time" does at the end of every set.

Although last night was a little different for "Time." Inspired by the sleepy Sunday evening, Bo Bulawsky stood on the elevated stage's ledge, his head precariously close to the flaming hot stage lights to school the audience with the wisest of mantras: "If you only want one thing, you had better get that thing." Bulawsky, as canny a front man as they come, finished the set with his back to the audience and belted the rest of the song with an insistence that made dream courting as adored as Bo and the Locomotive is to St. Louis denizens.

Darwin Deez began its set with the first of four choreographed dances. One-by-one, rhythm guitarist Andrew Hoepfner, drummer Tim McCoy, singer/guitarist Darwin Smith and bassist Greg Richardson rotated through a series of poses to mash-ups created by Smith who also writes and records the songs for Darwin Deez. The audience was stupefied. They watched the wackiness unfold with mouths unhinged into loose smiles and their beers tucked to their chests. An elated friend leaned over and said, "I have NEVER seen that before in my entire life." You and me both, sister.

Hoepfner broke onto the middle of the stage and, paraphrasing Smith, shook his wiggles out. His torso and legs took an S-shape and his arms floated around his body like cellophane in a breeze. Darwin Deez then jumped into "You Can't Be My Girl" with Smith's mega-watt smile plastered to his visage, where it remained the entire night.

Afterwards, Smith had this to say: "Everyday is a Friday night for us. You know, cuz, look at us." Never has a band appeared so happy to be onstage and so thrilled with who and what they are. The silliness seen by the audience last night was unparalleled. The musicianship went hand-in-hand with the band's divine goofiness. Smith and Hoepfner ran a guitar clinic the entire night. Hoepfner displayed intricate guitar patches that only an invertebrate could mimic. Smith would go on solo tangents and slay the endless minutes of his controlled, blues-hued passages.

When the band wrapped up "Suicide Song," Smith instructed the audience on the basics of "crabcore." Crabcore, as acted out by Smith, is a guitar/dance move where the instrumentalist crouches down like the irascible crustacean and plays his guitar in between his knees. This would come in handy during the band's encore. The band had the audience learn and dance along with their "Spring Dance." Indeed, we all crouched down, fanned our arms out, dropped our wrists and scuttled back and forth with Smith, Hoepfner, McCoy and Richardson. Then two audience members were asked to come onstage for dance solos.

The band finished its set with "Bad Day" and "(800) Human." People went home ecstatic, and there are simply not enough words allotted in this review to tell of all the wonderful things that happened last night. The audience was charmed. Only Smith can be a delight when spouting off quips like, "Hoosier Daddy? Probably a hipster."

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