Last Saturday, Chicago-based indie rock three-piece Dehd set up shop in Charleston, SC at the Music Farm, playing with vivid energy that was absorbed by a thoroughly willing audience.
Singer-songwriter Sarah Grace White opened up the show with a performance of powerful simplicity, standing in front of a keyboard dressed casually in all black and flanked by fellow musician Julia Laws on bass. White’s expansive, melancholic vocals, adorned with bass and synth, flowed like dreamy gauze over the room.
Dehd Takes the Stage
Dehd took the stage with a lively directness. Singer Emily Kempf, standing tall at the mic in a long white dress, wasted no time at all, singing “There’s a hole in my window / I was wondering how the rain was getting in,” the opening lines of “Window,” a track from Dehd’s most recent album Blue Skies.
The band dove into one track after another, playing fan favorites like “Loner” and “Stars.” The crowd jumped up and down alongside Jason Bella’s galloping guitar, many seeming to know every word, those who didn’t still feeling called to participate.
Shouting Out Family in the Crowd
We learned that Kempf’s family was in the audience, and she had an endearing check-in with her sister whilst on stage and called out some family friends for having art in their home that fucked her up as a child, “in a good way.”
“Letter,” a more contemplative track from Dehd’s third album Flower of Devotion, was a standout of the night’s performance, as was “Waterfalls” from Blue Skies.
At points, Kempf seemed to sing as if pulling a guttural howl from deep within, notes flying out of her diaphragm in a great release. Bella’s vocals were more grounded – where Kempf was channeling messages from another realm, Bella was interpreting them back on earth.
The Dehd Balancing Act
Kempf and Bella also balanced one another in their stage presence – while Kempf mostly stood tall like a kind of statuesque beacon, Bella thrashed about, sinking shoulder-first to one side, then the other as if he’d been shot, legs wobbling forward and back like a zombie.
Drummer Eric McGrady was a steady anchor at the back of the stage, his heavy, elemental rendering of the drums felt profound, each thump expressing a wordless truth.
The audience lost their heads for the punchy, singable “Bad Love,” which the band played with quick precision, flowing right into another standout Flower of Devotion track, “Flood.”
Playing New Music
After a few more familiar tunes, the band revealed they would close the show with a brand-new track off an album they just finished recording.
“Everyone I know is breaking hearts tonight,” they sang against an upbeat soundscape, and the crowd was game, bouncing along.
The encore was another new track, dedicated to a dog named Nacho. The band switched up their positions: McGrady grabbed Kempf’s bass, Bella took over the drums.
Kempf stood unencumbered, focusing only on singing, dipping into a softer tone at points that showed her versatility.
Encore With Family & Friends
Finally, the band invited White and Laws back onstage for one last romp, along with Kempf’s sister and some tour mates. They played “Desire.” Everyone took turns beating the drums, shouting out into the night with abandon.
Dehd’s music has always felt, to me, ripe with a kind of hedonistic pulse that is just a little bit nostalgic, as if it would play during the poignant montage scene in the movie version of my life. The band reaches right to the raw edge of both high and low emotion, and this unrestrained exploration persisted in visceral brilliance during the live show.
If you missed Dehd in Charleston this time, Kempf mentioned that she visits every Thanksgiving, so come late November keep your eyes peeled for a tattooed songstress in the streets.