It was cosmic being at the Webster Hall, San Fran style as Devendra Banhart and his troupe of bearded gents took over the downtown disco combining freako-folk and a gathering of the vibes into a free-for-all boogie-thon reminiscent of the Grateful Dead’s glory days. This time around, a playful aura radiated from the stage as the four- piece band tiptoed through the tulips to Banhart’s psychedelic warbling.
The smell of weed pervaded the hall like the funky stench of a long lost friend providing a nice contact high for all, as the saying goes, a friend with weed is a friend indeed. The event was taped by two camera persons straddling the divide that separates the crowd from the stage in lo-fi splendor adding a sense of historical relevance to the eve as the photo pit got taken over by anyone with the nerve to get up close and personal.
The Hairy Fairies provided the rock steady rhythmns to Banhart’s slithering runs that bridged flamenco and the fingerpicking style-isms of Jefferson Airplane/Hot Tuna guitar maestro Jorma Kaukonen. Switching axes every other song he kept the performance upbeat and bopping adding delicate acoustic fare between some barrelhouse show stoppers that took on the tone of a Broadway revival of Hair.
“Santa Maria Da Fiera” from his new one Cripple Crow showcased Barnhart’s singer/songwriter strut. On “I Feel Just Like a Child,” Banhart and crew turned the Webster Hall into a battle cry against George Dubya’s bloody war on the eve of the U.S. body count reaching 2000 dead. The song had Banhart slithering into contorted poses on the refrain, questioning “what the f**k we’re doing over there!”
The band took a break and asked a member of the audience to entertain the crowd as a Dave Mathews strumming hippie in training provided the goods with the gusto of a seasoned pro. The bedtime lullaby “Little Yellow Spider” from his last one Nino Rojo ended the regular set with Banhart on solo guitar.
For the grand finale “Little Boys,” a song about schizophrenic hermaphrodites, the entire cast and crew of musicians, stagehands, jokers and midnight tokers took to the stage. In a 20 minute bout of bump and grind, Banhart sliced through some acid washed licks on electric guitar ending the night in a tribal stomp to the Woodstock nation and The Hairy Fairies.
Opener Bunny Brains transformed its minimalist art house, avant-garde noise into bursts of 21st Century Schizoid Rock compliments of King Crimson. Combining cello, drums and a double guitar/bass contraption the trio’s dense and loud sounds set the tone for the night’s trip to the Age of Aquarius.