Staghorn @ Mighty Oak Festival, Jax, Fla 30/05/2015

staghorn mighty oak fest

Overall, I like lyrics. I’ve long been a fan of witty songsmiths like Stephin Merritt, Robert Pollard, Bill Calahan, Stuart Murdoch, Jarvis Cocker, Jay-Z and the like. A clever turn of a phrase can win me over like little else. But sometimes, words are overrated, as St. Louis DIY post-rockers Staghorn demonstrated to me last night at sparsely attended show at Burro Bar as part of the Mighty Oak Fest.

I have to admit, I was a prejudicial asshole, and my expectations were initially low. Three kids in typical crustpunk attire – grungy hoodies, fannypacks, anarchocowboy bandanas over their faces – set their equipment up. I assumed they would sound like a hundred bands I’d already heard before. A closer inspection of their gear, however, yielded some subversive surprises. Their amps all looked homemade, housed in handsome wooden cases with some sort of windmill image branded on them. The guitarist Jared had an impressive panoply of pedals, including a looping sampler he would later put to good effect. Finally, they trundled out a miniature pump organ. My puzzlement grew.

In short order, the room was suffused with the droning pulse of the pump organ and a few gentle notes tinkling out from the guitar. I found myself mesmerized. Things picked up shortly thereafter, transitioning from metal sludginess to angular intensity. During one particular feedback-laden shift, my skin broke out in goosebumps. I felt like I was witnessing a band like Mogwai or Godspeed You! Black Emperor at their most embryonic stage. The drumming looked as demanding as any I’ve seen in a while, and the guitar work was workmanlike. Nary a word was spoken during their set. I was impressed.

This isn’t to say that Staghorn aren’t without their flaws. They’re still a tad unpolished, and could probably benefit from tightening up a smidgen, though it’s hard to blame them given their unorthodox and amorphous time signatures. I found myself even more forgiving when the gracious Jared later told me that this was only their third show. I imagine that in a year or two, these kids will put out something memorable, provided they keep honing their craft. They’re releasing a full length LP later this year, and I look forward to hearing it.

Staghorn are on tour throughout the United States now. Check out where they’re playing here.

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