Spooky set from Dirty Projectors

***** (5 stars out of 6); October 31 at Store Vega

It was Halloween night when the Dirty Projectors graced Store Vega with their brand of experimental indie rock, but frontman David Longstreth wasn’t in costume. 


Well, not in a conventional sense, anyway. Instead he jumped around the stage and chatted with the audience, claiming he had come as a “socialite”. 


“That’s my Halloween costume tonight. Except I’m not really dressed for it, it’s more of a conceptual thing,” he said. It was a good introduction to the track that followed – ‘The Socialites’ from the New York band’s latest offering Swing Lo Magellan.  


A more obvious Halloween choice ‘About To Die’ came later on, and Longstreth engaged the crowd in some light existential banter about life and death. He threw out similar ironic nuggets of humour throughout the set.


Between the jokes, there was plenty of music, and with six musicians on stage it got pretty loud. The bass was a bit high at the beginning, sending a throbbing wave over this reviewer’s skin and ears. That was rectified later on, but the group still managed to send out a massive wall of sound.


One of their quirkier tunes (and that’s saying a lot because Dirty Projectors are inherently quirky), ‘Beautiful Mother’, was particularly intense live. The three female vocalists belted out some gorgeous harmonies and a sort of yodel before yelling a guttural “Aaayyyyyy”. Interspersed with handclaps, this song gave the singers a chance to show off, and the crowd was grateful for it. 


Finishing off the main part of the show with ‘Useful Chamber’ from their 2009 release Bitte Orca, Dirty Projectors made good use of strobe lighting and headbanging for an added dose of drama. The lights flashed in time with the guitarists’ power cords, blue lighting coloured the quieter sections, and red lighting was used in the more chaotic parts. The height of chaos came when the singers were wailing so loudly that the sound, though in tune, verged on being downright ugly.


Then came the encore and a special surprise. The three female band members came out dressed as Japanese cartoon characters in one-piece animal suits, and the bass player came out in a loincloth. A “pink bear that kills people” (as Longstreth called him) also made an appearance before manning the merchandise desk later on. Longstreth said that being on a tour bus for a long time tended to incite self-mocking behaviour. But as for the frontman, he was still in his socialite costume.