Freaky folkster gets the party started

By EmiPeters

The Vic Theatre came alive with the psychedelic-folk sounds of Devendra Banhart on Nov. 16. Banhart played to a large, all-ages crowd at the historic Vic Theatre, 3145 N. Sheffield Ave. The audience was abuzz with anticipation for the night’s show, and rows of extra seating were set up for concertgoers around the front of the stage, creating a relaxed atmosphere.

Banhart performed about 20 songs, both old and new. Many of the night’s selections came from his latest album, What Will We Be, which debuted in late October under the artist’s first major record label, Warner Bros./Reprise Records. Chicago was the first stop on Banhart’s North American tour, and fans at The Vic were elated to host the musician in the Windy City.

Banhart was supported by opening act Tim Kinsella of the Chicago-based band Joan of Arc. Kinsella’s solo set was no contest to Banhart’s wild-yet-charming antics. Kinsella seemed rigid and a bit elusive while on stage, and his songs were repetitive and confusing. In the last song of his set, he seemed to stop abruptly, spit out a sudden “thank you,” and quickly walk off stage, as if he just wanted the whole thing to be over with.

After a quick set change, Banhart and his band, which he jokingly named “Doom Fist 3D,” walked on stage to wild cheers. People quickly got out of their seats and started moving as Banhart played the first song of the night, “Long Haired Child,” off of 2005’s Cripple Crow. The song was an appropriate opener for the free-spirited Banhart, who was sporting his trademark long, dark curly locks and scruffy facial hair.

Banhart went on to play selections from the new album. First was “Baby,” then “16th & Valencia Roxy Music,” a dance-y pop song that strays from his usual folk ballads and mentions magical things like “ridin’ six white horses,” “free dancing” and “table tapping,” which got the crowd’s toes tapping with its heavy drum beat and glam-disco grooves.

Every now and then, Banhart would pause in between songs to take a sip from a wine glass filled with what appeared to be beer, a gesture that would suggest he is approachable, but also a bit high maintenance. Banhart often complained about the lighting, and during one moment, he pointed to the balcony section and mentioned how a spotlight shown directly on the crowd, causing discomfort for some of the concertgoers.

“Can you save those poor people and turn off the lights up there? They’re wearing sunglasses,” Banhart quipped.

Moving into the solo portion of his set, Banhart performed the songs “Little Yellow Spider” and “It’s a Sight to Behold,” as he and his acoustic guitar cast a dream-like spell in the theater.

After the solo, the band came back on stage to continue the night’s festive mood with new song “Foolin’,” a sweet, reggae-tinged ditty that had people swaying and bopping from side to side. Even though Banhart fumbled with the song a bit in the beginning, he laughed it off and kept going with an exuberant smile and cheerful bounce.

The end of the set proved to be the most exciting part of the show, as Banhart performed a rousing rendition of the song “Rats,” and people in the audience made their way on stage and danced alongside Banhart and the band, Girl Talk-style.

Two young girls on stage particularly stood out with Native American-inspired feathered headdresses, much like Banhart himself wears in the music video for “Little Yellow Spider.”

At the end of the song, Banhart gave a few fans hugs before security kicked everyone off the stage and the band began playing the last song of the set, “Carmensita.

Before the show officially ended, Banhart came out on stage once more for a much-desired encore, playing two more songs: “Chinese Children,” which subsequently led into the crowd-pleaser, “I Feel Just Like a Child.” Banhart, who removed his shirt for the encore, shimmied and shook his thin frame into submission, leaving a lasting impression for those fortunate enough to see the performance.