Devendra Banhart | 09.13.07

devendra.jpgImagine Slater from Dazed & Confused if he grew a beard and took off his shirt, and you’ve got Banhart





The Granada, Lawrence, Kan.

It’s pretty safe to say that I’m sold on a show when the performer asks a question like "Do you guys wanna hear a song about reincarnation or a song about Wayne’s World?" in earnest. Nothing less can be expected from freak folk darling Devendra Banhart, who began his show explaining that his backing band, known recently as "Spiritual Bonerz," (the "z" in "Bonerz," he explains, is silent), would for the purposes of this show be referred to as "Brain Taint."

About 45 minutes or so into the show he asked the above question, to which the answer was obviously and resoundingly Wayne’s World. After the Wayne’s World song Banhart went ahead and played the reincarnation song anyway, and it turned out to be "Seahorse," which is from his forthcoming album Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon, and which he premiered on his MySpace page a few weeks back. It’s opening resulted in much celebration from the annoying (but expected) hippie audience, and the song’s unlikely Guitar Hero ending led to lots of unfortunate hippie thrashing. For someone relatively clean and claustrophobic, this sort of this can be too much to bear, but it’s worth it for a Devendra Banhart show.

A week or two prior to the show, the venue was changed from Lawrence’s Liberty Hall Theatre to the less-pleasant Granada, which wound up being hot, small and smelled like patchouli (that last part probably would have applied to Liberty Hall, too). I had seen Devendra about two years ago at The Blue Note in Columbia, Mo., and while I was expecting hippies there, the show was actually pretty laid back and hippie-free. And while the show at The Granada was hippie-laden, the performance was a lot more upbeat, too, so it stands to reason that Devendra feeds off of hippie energy.

The show began slow (the music video version of Nino Rojo‘s "At the Hop" was definitely a highlight), and around the time Banhart was due to leave the stage, instead of playing the usual performer game of leaving, taking a break and listening to the audience clamor for an encore, he instead handed his guitar over to a couple of kids from the audience who wanted to play a song each. While a neat idea in theory, both people who played were crowd-thinningly unpleasant (especially an idiot jock who went first), and I think I wasn’t the only person in the audience who wanted to see them fail, which goes against the whole spirit of the thing.

But when Banhart and Brain Taint returned to the stage after the audience members’ two songs, the show really took off, not least of which with a great performance of Cripple Crow’s rousing "I Feel Just Like a Child" that had Banhart losing his guitar and strutting and goofy-dancing around the stage (imagine Slater from Dazed & Confused if he grew a beard and took off his shirt, and you’ve got Banhart). Also, when someone in the audience requested Crow‘s great "Chinese Children," he did a screwy impromptu version that had lyrics that went something like, "If I was a chicken I’d have some bacon children."

After a few post-break songs, Banhart left the stage again, and returned to play a final, one-song encore, which happened to be my favorite song of his ever, Rejoicing in the Hands‘ "This Beard is for Siobhan." I like to think that once he got offstage, he realized that he forgot to play my favorite song (regardless of its age and relative obscurity in his back catalogue) and came back to play it just for me. | Pete Timmermann

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