Following the punk aesthetic – Desaparecidos at the Button Factory

Desparecidos the band

So how did I unexpectedly end up buying tickets to see a band I hardly knew and whose name I couldn’t pronounce? Why, the drummer invited me of course – along with a thousand other punters who had gone to see Conor Oberst (aka Bright Eyes, aka the frontman of Desaparecidos, the band in question) play a very grown-up show in the National Concert Hall last Tuesday.

“Nobody has bought any fucking tickets for our show in the Button Factory. Seriously,” the drummer told the NCH audience while Conor took a brief break.

The bit of blatant self-promotion worked – and not just on me. The Button Factory was fairly packed for the Thursday gig.

Desaparecidos are a post-hardcore, indie rock band from Omaha, Nebraska. “We’re from the United States of America,” Oberst added to their introduction – sarcastically, of course.

The name derives from the Spanish and Portuguese word for “disappeared ones” and refers to left-wing activists who were captured by South American militant governments and then vanished without a trace.

Conor Oberst’s songs have always had a political edge to them, except with Bright Eyes, his lyrics are more introverted and mournful. With Desaparecidos, Oberst’s words take on a more aggressive manifestation.

Punky and hardcore, Desaparecidos are a raggle-taggle live band. They play hard and fast, generating a fever of adolescent excitement.

They sounded particularly grungey throughout their Dublin debut, probably on account of the fact that they had only rehearsed for the first time in a long time before the show – they hired the Button Factory the day before to work out the kinks.

In accordance with the punk aesthetic, the band does not conform to the traditions of a rock band. There was no encore. They simply came, saw and conquered the crowd in a snappy one-hour set.

Desaparecidos may have missed out on turning into a big rock band when Oberst parted ways in 2002 to become a teenage icon with Bright Eyes, but they are certainly making up for lost time since reuniting in 2012.

A thrilling and refreshing live experience – I feel like a born-again adolescent, even if I’m only 20 years old.

Forever adolescent – Conor Oberst plays the National Concert Hall

Conor Oberst backstage
Photo by Hello My Name is Dev via Flickr

There were lots of hugs and kisses (onstage and offstage) for the forever-adolescent Conor Oberst when he closed his European acoustic solo tour in the National Concert Hall, his first headline date in Dublin in 11 years.

Oberst last visited Ireland under the guise of Bright Eyes to play Oxegen 2011. It now appears he has since retired the band name, but luckily that doesn’t mean he has put his impressive back-catalogue to bed.

The Concert Hall set consisted of tracks by all three of Conor Oberst’s main projects – Bright Eyes, the Mystic Valley band and Monsters of Folk – as well as some new ones. He responded to the usual silent response to new tracks with: “I know this excites the shit out of you.”

The emotive songwriter, who has done a lot of growing up in the last five or six years, seemed acutely aware of the audience throughout. There was plenty of back and forth chatting and Oberst was particularly drawn to two young female fans in the front row.

“I thought you guys were one person,” he said. “I thought you were Siamese twins. Think of the possibilities,” he added.

He wrongfully gave the “twins” a microphone for a sing-along later on – knowing the words (which were easy: “la, la, la, la”) didn’t make up for their appalling voices.

Oberst’s performance was intimate in both the abstract and literal sense (at one point he hugged the entire front row).

The mishmash audience – consisting of tweenagers, emos, 30-year-old long-term fans and Concert Hall regulars – was silent throughout the show. There were some definite tearjerker moments – ‘First Day of My Life’ being the obvious one.

Oberst’s stage presence can be intimidating at times – he hammered a grand piano, broke multiple guitar strings and went from singing softly to roaring in quick moments.

‘You Are Your Mother’s Child’ was another emotional highlight and ‘At the Bottom of Everything’ and ‘Classic Cars’ went down a storm.

The set was well selected, delving deep into Oberst’s 20-year career, but it would have been nice had ‘Lua’ been included.

The show was rousing and engaging, and Oberst received a deserved standing ovation when it all came to a close.