Dave Longstreth looks like a dinosaur. He slouches when he plays the guitar, lowering his head to reach the mic stand, which he refuses to raise. His Statocaster is strapped far above his waist and so his lanky arms have to curl around the guitar, his hands dangling like little raptor claws. For the past six months since the release Dirty Projectors‘ Bitte Orca, we have allowed Longstreth and his gang of human harmonizers to devour our iPods, our “Best of the Year” lists, our “Best of the Decade” lists. So when we finally see the band live at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, we realize — the predator stance is appropriate.
Photo credit: Jake Moore
“I guess that’s the thing about irony — it means a couple things on many different levels, but it doesn’t really feel good on any of those levels,” says Dave Longstrength three-quarters way through his set. The crowd has no idea what he’s talking about (Was that a reference to the previous song?), and so we laugh in bewilderment at Longstreth’s brief epiphany. Out of context, however, the sentence says a lot about the Dirty Projectors — they are Brooklyn’s most unironic band. They do nothing out of the ordinary live — everything is perfect. The harmonic trifecta — Amber Coffman, Angel Deradoorian, and Haley Dekle — is pitch perfect. Dave Longstreth doesn’t mess up. It would be ironic if he did, and irony is uncomfortable
During “Stillness is the Move,” the band’s first single off of Bitte Orca, Coffman leaves the guitar for the mic. She grooves back and forth to the blippity bass and incongruous drums and starts singing in her magnificently un-indie voice, which makes the song a loopy cross between the avant-garde and Mariah Carey, pre-Nick Cannon. She’s a tiny powerhouse, proving it with the belting cry at the song’s bridge, forcing the audience into applause. In the background, Longstreth is moving his hunched head back forth, peering at each of his singers. The Dirty Projectors is his baby, his songs. The girls of the band are all of equal height (very, very short), and this furthers Longstreth’s odd father-figure presence.
“Play ‘We Built this City!'” shouts someone from the crowd. “What?” says a puzzled Longstreth, it seems as though he’s never heard of Starship. The word “city” triggers a random, seemingly connected thought. “All I know is this part of the city is the creative capital of the entire world,” he responds steadily. The audience erupts into applause, embracing the delicious unirony of it all. We are seeing (what many will argue) indie rock’s most creative band in music’s creative epicenter. It’s almost too fitting.