It seems like the Dirty Projectors don’t want to leave Chicago. This most recent performance was their third in town this summer, each with its own set of challenges, but the group finds a way to overcome those challenges every time. First was their pre-Lolla gig, sandwiched between two hours of DJ’ing and a heavily anticipated set from Devo. Next was the Lollapalooza set they tore up, the festival where “like, a whole lot of bands played…and you could walk around and buy cool things”, as vocalist/guitarist Dave Longstreth put it. Their show at Chicago’s Metro, though, was set against the greatest villain of all: the blaring of Dave Matthews Band booming through the neighborhood from Wrigley Field, just down the street. “It’s like a little festival in Wrigleyville,” Longstreth joked, a little too accurately. But just like their first two attempts, this show went off like a burst of sun and wonderful music.
Unfortunately, working through the battleground that was the DMB crowd (including getting spit on by a drunk yuppie) meant missing the opening set from Happy Birthday, but word in the crowd was definitely positive. That said, the buzz was definitely on for the Projectors. The lanky, endearing Longstreth ambled onstage to hoots and applause. Marriage proposals were shouted out as vocalists Haley Dekle, Angel Deradoorian, and Amber Coffman followed. The recently re-invigorated strains of “Fucked For Life” charged through the venue like lightning. Though it was originally released in 2006, the new orchestration, with its three-part harmonies, is an exciting new animal.
Next, the band dug back into a more recent hit, the jangly “No Intention” from 2009’s sublime Bitte Orca. Drummer Brian Macomber bounced aggressively forward and back on his stool, vintage green Hartford Whalers shirt darting out from behind the cymbals. Longstreth and Coffman traded riffs on the guitar, locking into tight grooves. Getty Address favorite “I Will Truck” followed in all of its off-kilter, inspired glory. The David Byrne collaboration “Knotty Pine” was followed by two tracks from the newly released BjÃ¶rk collaboration, Mount Wittenberg Orca. All three tracks benefited from the warmth of acoustic guitar, Nat Baldwin’s upright bass, and four-part vocals, a richness that few other bands could reproduce. The “hocketing” technique that the Dirty Projectors employ is unique to their sound, and though they use it so often, it never stops being impressive.
Later, their cover of Bob Dylan’s “As I Went Out One Morning” came off nearly reggae, a strange, almost tropical, entirely fun and dance-friendly reworking. Baldwin’s electric bass popped and rumbled, the female vocalists howling moans offering a totally new take on the old Dylan chestnut. The shout-heavy “Imagine It” followed later, Longstreth’s guitar falling off of his shoulders. He attempted to wind the cord around himself, tying the guitar up against his body without missing a beat in his vocals. I’d never heard Rise Above standout “Police Story” live before, but it held tons of grit and beauty simultaneously. The lights blared for “Temecula Sunrise”, blinding anyone in the room. Deradoorian got her moment of spotlight, taking a tender, heartfelt lead on “Two Doves”, with Coffman’s “Stillness is the Move” following later, both to massive applause.
These five musicians apparently just can’t fail. No matter the issues, the situation, any negative potential, they come together and work out a fun, engaging, powerful set of music. While three times in one summer would probably be too many for most other bands, this show only left a hunger for more.