Before hitting Coachella, Devendra Banhart and his five-piece band played a sold out show at the Independent in San Francisco. Pot filled the air. Girls dominated the audience. Someone panted, “my heart is beating so hard right now.” A little stoned, sipping hot tea in an old t-shirt and suspenders, Banhart is a quirk of nature, charming with a natural flare. He played both old and new material with his usual strangeness, demonstrative gestures, and stream of consciousness verse.
This was the first time they played new material off the upcoming album, title TBA. Lightheartedly, Banhart warned the opening song “Chin Chin and Muck Muck”, “[is] not going to sound anything like this if you ever hear it… this will probably deter you from ever wanting to hear it.” And muttered, “Here we go, I’m gonna shut up.” It started simple with a single strum on guitar, verse, strum, verse, then the beat picked up with the shake of maracas. Like many of his songs, the lyrics were like fragmented thoughts or pieces from some kind of weird dream, “they live under your dress in a Masongilic mess singing clang clang clang,” “I’m going to braid exotic birds in your hair,” “we’re elegant lawn chairs,” “take a little [sniff] and I’ll grant your every wish.”
Elements of folk, rock, and surf music can be heard in “Angelica,” a sweet song with a graceful pace, an acoustic guitar, bongos, and staccato lyrics. Halfway through, a sly buzzing guitar introduced a faster tempo. Banhart finished the song in Spanish and the audience answered with trills, woos, and yelps.
“Shabop Shalom’s” opening monologue was spoken by the drummer. Banhart sauntered from the side with quavering croons. The guitarist pecked away on a little black plastic keyboard. And on cue, the audience shouted back “get bent!”
My favorite was the new song “Baby.” The music affectionately swayed and popped along. With pointed fingers he assured, “Baby, I finally know what I’m going after. I’m learning to live in all the laughter… Holy moly, you’re so funny. You crack me up.” With sweeping arms, he physically emanated “you showed me a sunset over flowing, but who cares where it’s going”, then shimmied and smiled out “as long as you’re next to me.”
For the encore, with a bottle of Makers, Banhart sang “Little Yellow Spider” while the band took a break. One of the last two songs, “Rat”, was clenched fists, hands over eyes, and Black Sabbathy rock. The show concluded with a light, reggae tune that talked about taking things one day at a time, one song at a time, and he’s “sorry about breaking the vein.”
The last words I scribbled in my notebook that night were “free to feel the unknown.”
Enjoy some video of two brand new songs below!