LIVE REVIEW: Slasher Flicks at Bowery Ballroom

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Embracing their name’s camp vibe, Slasher Flicks had the Bowery Ballroom decked out last Monday night in floaty columns of oversized white plastic skulls that hung ghoulishly in the pre-show spotlights. Skulls notwithstanding, there’s nothing all that spooky about this trio, unless you happen to be afraid of painfully hip indie musicians. The evening had been billed as “Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks,” but that maneuver was mostly strategic. To be sure, Animal Collective’s experimental guitarist Avey Tare, alias Dave Portner, was the biggest name in the lineup, and Slasher Flicks’ recent full-length Enter The Slasher House does bear plenty of family resemblance to Animal Collective’s dissonance and oddball angularity, but when they played live, it was ex-Dirty Projector Angel Deradoorian who had the biggest presence onstage.

“How you guys doing tonight? I can’t heeeeear yoooou,” she doofused between songs. “Just kidding. I can totally hear you.” The stage was lit up in technicolor, pixellated neon flashing across the skulls’ white faces and then, with similar effect, Deradoorian’s. Pockets of color lit up the band members’ faces, and between them, abysses of darkness cropped up. The shows’ aesthetic had been planned within an inch of its life.

Avey-love ran rampant in the crowd, even if Deradoorian was doing most of the talking. “I love youuuuuuu,” bellowed a slack-jawed, flannel-clad stick figure standing beside me. Between songs, he’d been overcome by emotion. “Play ‘My Girls’.” Portner looked up and grinned appreciatively. What looked like hundreds of super-fans were standing around the stage, all agog–stoner nerds who looked young and overgrown, many of them stand-spooning their girlfriends and staring up at the stage as if they were watching history get made. “Wow,” one of them huskily murmured into the hair of the girl he was holding the first time Portner emerged onto the stage. Very few of them danced–not even to Slasher Flicks bouncy and thoroughly dance-worthy single “Little Fang”–though standing squarely front-and-center was a blond guy who spent the entire set shaking his chin-length hair wildly in the technicolor beams of light aimed for the skull decor onstage.

The riffing between Portner and Angel Deradoorian–who, unsurprisingly, are a couple in their extra-musical lives–is at the crux of Slasher Flicks, and it was easy to feel a little sorry for drummer Jeremy Hyman (of Ponytail, Dan Deacon), whose complex, meticulously shaped lines resuscitate many of the hazier moments of Enter The Slasher House. He came across as a supporting member to Deradoorian and Tare’s musical synchronicity. In fact, Hyman hadn’t known the pair before Portner recruited him to be part of Slasher Flicks, but a bandmate from Ponytail, Dustin Wong, was there to open for Slasher Flicks’ set. It was a stark performance–Wong played alone on stage, with only a mic, a guitar, and the skulls that hung all around him–but the set’s minimalism added to the intensity of his vocal acrobatics. He zoomed in towards the microphone and then cut away just as quickly, with powerful vocal control. It was a pretty extraordinary set, with a sense of order and minimalism that contrasted effectively against Slasher Flicks’ chaotic and kooky performance.

The difference between studio renditions of Slasher Flicks’ songs and their live performance came mostly in vocal delivery–though much of Enter The Slasher House was catchy, I thought that its angularity often manifested as muddled, overworked production that stood in the way of the emotive power the album was able to hold over a listener. Like the group’s live aesthetic–the glowing skulls, the bursts of technicolor between abysses of darkness–Enter The Slasher House was too flinchingly self-conscious. However, “Catchy (Was Contagious)” and “Roses On The Window” were two surprising highlights of the evening. Deradoorian belted out her vocal line, flecking the songs with unexpected drama, even diva-ishness, that drastically dialed up their power.

Check out “Roses On The Window,” off Enter The Slasher House, below: