Photos by: Nicole L. Browner
For about a minute, as the crowd stood in the dim light, raucously cheering and applauding after the Dirty Projectors walked off stage July 27 at the Fox Theater for the second time, it seemed as though the Brooklyn-based progressive indie-pop sextet might come out once more, Bruce Springsteen-style, for yet another encore. And I found myself — rather uncharacteristically — hoping this was true.
I must be old. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve been around the block more than a few times when it comes to concerts. I often catch myself rejoicing when bands don’t play encores, and I get to either return home to my down comforter or catch a few post-show drinks without feeling like I’m racing against California’s all-too-early last call.
Not this time. I love Dirty Projectors. And I love them even more now, after seeing them for the first time live at the Fox with excellent opening act, Wye Oak.
My appreciation has grown for frontman Dave Longstreth’s flawlessly sloppy, loping guitar licks; my awe has deepened with respect to the band’s vocal arrangements — the arpeggios divided up among guitarist Amber Coffman, percussionist Haley Dekle and keyboardist Olga Bell; and my crush on Coffman has been redoubled now that I have heard her pull off the Mariah Carey-esque, glass-shattering high notes of “Stillness is the Move” so effortlessly, while bounding about the stage, grinning her head off.
I think I understand the group as a whole now better than I ever have before.
Three songs into the Projectors’ set, as they played the relentlessly gleeful “About to Die,” I glimpsed, in all its glory, Longstreth’s vision. The band bobbed up and down in unison to the thumping pulse created by bassist Nat Baldwin and heavy-hitting drummer Michael Johnson, while Longstreth’s jubilant, bubbling, highlife guitar lines blipped around the beat. I was reminded of one of many scenes that will be familiar to those who have seen one of the Scooby Doo chase montages, in which shots of the gang running from ghosts and ghouls are spliced together with clips of some groovy band playing just bopping along.
This moment of sheer joy meshed perfectly with the impression I got of Longstreth — who I had the pleasure of briefly meeting outside the Fox as I walked up to the will call booth. He was subdued, humble and completely obliging as I asked him for a quick picture.
He smiled goofily into my phone’s camera lens in one shot, and stared off into the distance on another — perhaps uncomfortable with the idea that he might be of interest to any news outlet, or perhaps thinking of something.
While the Projectors’ sound is certainly exuberant, they are nothing if not thoughtful. Their songs capture the sounds of Africa, but also the feel of the great mother continent. Their tones are warm, their loose handclapping rhythms — as exhibited in the set’s tenth song, “Just From Chevron” — inspired the Fox audience (at least this audience member) to get lost in the ecstasy of what it means to be alive and be a part of humanity.
And in this context it makes sense that the Projectors would write a song titled “About to Die” using such a bright and joyful palate of chords and tones. Yes, we will all pass on some day, but until we do we will all rise each morning with the rising sun and stand up against the will of gravity and all the other forces of this world, which seek to beat us down.
Swing Low Magellan
Offspring are Blank
I’m About to Die
See What She’s Seeing
Gun Has No Trigger
Just From Chevron
Maybe That Was It
Dance 4 U
Stillness is the Move