Devendra Banhart

Time Out New York | by Mike Wolf

Pete’s Candy Store; Fri 3

The best way to recommend Devendra Banhart is to say that you wouldn’t want to miss a moment of one of his performances—if you do, you might not be able to piece together the puzzle that he is. The young Brooklyn-based singer’s music, a bizarre stripe of folk that’s unrefined, dreamy and somewhat feral, can be baffling for minutes on end, with half-started songs and untrackable narratives shot through with his nervy personality.. But there are moments—a briefly lucid lyric or a fleeting chord progression—that somehow cast light on Banhart’s mysteries, giving meaning to the whole of his sound and revealing him as one of the brightest new artists to come along in 2002.
At a recent Tonic show, wiry Banhart sat cross-legged on the stage as if the audience itself were a campfire. He strummed and picked an acoustic guitar, sometimes in a halting manner but often reminiscent of the breezy pastoralism of Sandy Bull or John Fahey, rolling his head gently with the rise and fall of his warbly vocals. At one point, it was hard to tell if he was playing a medley of short songs or just moving quickly from one to the next, and as his surreal words blurred together, the room’s atmosphere became a little disorienting. Suddenly, he offered one lyric as explanation for it all: “I’ve never told this story to another living soul / For fear it might awaken and the story would unfold.” After that song, “Cosmos and Demos,” Banhart’s tales of bent teeth, love, and objects lost and found seemed to make sense.
Banhart’s recently released debut, Oh Me Oh My... (on Young God, and the full title is actually much longer), collects 21 tape hiss-coated songs, many around one-minute long, and can be a little hard to get a handle on. The album is much easier to navigate after seeing him play, but an evening spent with such a weirdly captivating presence is reward enough on its own.