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Live: Devendra Banhart Plays A Secret Show at Webster Hall

Photographer Daniel Arnold
October 06, 2009

Last Friday Devendra Banhart played a secret show at Webster Hall, it was loose and he looked a whole lot like Frank Zappa. Little Joy performed afterward and Banhart got on stage with them too. After the jump read FADER contributor Daniel Arnold's rundown of the whole thing, including video and photos.

There were whispers the night before of a secret late night hang at a bar called Cabin, unmarked and under a pizza parlor. Kirsten Dunst was there and sloppy drunk, asking strangers with her famous mouth, Doe nye knowww you? Devendra was there too, a far cry of a life from the one we'd imagined for him around his early appearances, cross-legged with candles on the floor in an embroidered drape. Do you remember that Jools Holland performance that I'm mythologizing? Do you remember anecdotes of Tonic shows after months-long Williamsburg squats and the crazy way his speaking voice used to sound?

I'm not saying that Devendra's de-volution into hipsterati boogaloo dudery necessarily negates all the old creation myths. In fact, I think it makes them more interesting, seasons the stew of Marc Bolan parallels. But I am saying that when Devendra Banhart and Greg Rogove got out under the Webster Hall lights Friday for an effortless (which is to say, devoid of effort) but endearing and ultimately irresistible set of stripped-down olds and news, the crowd did not say, "What kind of creature is this?" They said, "Who was it that he dated again?" I literally heard that said. More than one time.

Gone with the wonder was the hush that used to fall over the old crowds. This one was young and overdressed and sweaty for Moretti, who they would have soon enough. They talked over "Little Yellow Spider" and "So Long Old Bean" and strung-out banter about New York City's bombardment of charms. Catching on, Devendra dropped the sweet hippie nothings and joked about Reel Big Fish before switching over to gibberish, "Eshawmm, ya know, blazza me ev-er-y time I'm in towlow shrrrmrrrr nrrmmrrr bleh blummaduh!" The crowd called out for "Chinese Children," which he wouldn't give them and when he introduced "Baby," off his upcoming What Will Be, he said "You guys will probably hate this."


Course he was wrong. The new stuff—the happy stuff—it doesn't give you the crazy eye and the shivers like "A Sight To Behold" did. But that's for the best. Who can take themselves seriously for that long? Who can take anybody else seriously for that long? If old Jesus Christ climbed down off the cross and started turning shit into fish left and right, yeah, everybody would just lose it completely. But honestly, sooner or later, people would start to recommend that you not eat Jesus' fish on Saturday because it was most likely made on Sunday and fish just doesn't keep all week. Sooner or later, people would just get tired of fish. And then what would Jesus do?

What Devendra did the other night is just kinda throw some new ideas out. Ideas which, although presented without much conviction or pomp, are still very clearly the crazed indulgences of a born original, to whom inspiration comes so often and so fast and so hard, that every avenue has to be explored. This avenue—a cartoony sorta reggae dance escapism vibe—is a little less serious than past ones, but not everything can be as ridiculous as that Neve Campbell sex scene in The Company, right? Do you know that scene? It's disgusting.

Speaking of which, Can you believe how long this post has gone on? How can I possibly go on taking myself seriously long enough to tell you about Little Joy? Is it enough to say that the crowd was insane for them? That a trio of geeks in tortoiseshell frames and bowtie suits were neither the first nor the last to charge the stage for the all-out party jam encore? Is it even worth mentioning that it was four songs and change before anybody in the room could take their eyes off the braless wonder Binki Shapiro?

Here's some more photos and a video of Little Joy covering one of your favorite songs from the 1980s. Get psyched for that new Devendra Banhart record coming out October 27.





Live: Devendra Banhart Plays A Secret Show at Webster Hall