When attending a show at Club Bahia in Echo Park, it’s best to skip the burritos. My friend/intern Greg and I arrived at Club Bahia – a venue that neither of us had heard of on Sunset - 15 minutes before Devendra Banhart was scheduled to play. Although it was a total novelty to order Mexican food from a window across from the bar and no one protested when Greg brought his plate into the crowd, he described the food as “disappointing” and “a redefinition of the concept of the burrito.” Fortunately, Greg’s meal was the only disappointment in an otherwise incredible evening.
Banhart’s set at Club Bahia came in two parts. He opened with a casual acoustic solo session, during which he took suggestions from the audience, communicating both in English and Spanish. Even after frequent collaborators and friends, Noah Georgeson and Josiah Steinbrick, among them, joined him onstage, it was clear that Devendra’s objective was to have good time. In the coming weeks and months, he and his band will be touring and promoting Ape in Pink Marble, but on this specific Tuesday night, they put on a spontaneous show with an improvised feel.
Certain songs dissolved into jam sessions or blended into different tracks. At times, Banhart started into one track, only to change his mind and change direction. He played a handful of songs from his latest release, but also delved into deep cuts (ex. “Long Haired Child” off 2005’s Cripple Crow) and crowd favorites (“Mi Negrita” and “Baby” elicited rave responses). “Fancy Man,” a track that I have been skipping while listening to the album, was surprisingly one of the highlights of the night. Banhart’s performance style is comical and entertaining; from the way he interacts with the audience to the manner in which he moves. All night his off-beat charisma and attempts at comedy contributed to a relaxed and welcoming vibe.
Devendra Banhart’s Ape in Pink Marble, released just three days before the show, throws together a ton of disparate ideas and makes perfect sense out of them. Tracks like “Saturday Night” and “Celebration” explore stories that should be exciting in a tragic manner. “Fig in Leather” runs with an almost comical pseudo-80’s vibe. Notably, “Mourning Dance” is reminiscent of the Twin Peaks theme. The familiar influence of South American music is integral to the album, most prominently in the form of Brazilian sambas. However, a newer Japanese-inspired sound is also present. Banhart, a multicultural and bilingual artist, can always be relied upon to produce multifaceted and complex works. And yet, the album is uniquely cohesive.
Like Ape in Pink Marble, Devendra Banhart’s show at Club Bahia on September 27th was scattered, experimental, and personal, but the finished product was a transcendent experience that felt genuine and right.
ELIZA MOLEY, HEAD OF CONTENT