INDIO, CA - APRIL 19: Musician Devendra Banhart performs during day 1 of the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival held at the Empire Polo Club on April 19, 2009 in Indio, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Devendra Banhart
"Freak folk" is a term used to describe acoustically inclined indie bands of the quirky persuasion. From Fleet Foxes to Joanna Newsom, musicians everywhere would likely prefer to avoid having the freak folk moniker foisted upon them.
Then there's Devendra Banhart, a songwriter from Houston who's appearing Thursday at the Belly Up, who has no problem being freaky. His albums, according to SPIN, "offer ashram-appropriate guitar strums, trippy-hippie tone poetry and, if you're lucky, at least one tune where he sings from the perspective of a rodent."
Banhart was never destined to be normal, though. With a middle name like Obi -- yes, he was named after the "Star Wars" character -- and parents who followed the Indian guru Maharaji, it's some small feat that he didn't turn out even weirder.
The singer/songwriter's career germinated while he attended art school and lived in San Francisco's Castro District. He started school in 1998, but soon, Banhart was skipping class in favor of busking on the streets. Before long, he was dating actress Natalie Portman.
In 2009, Banhart released an album called What Will We Be, and he also covered the Velvet Underground with Beck, the grandfather of freak folk, on his illustrious "Record Club" project. Banhart is touring to support What Will We Be, and it should be an energetic, interesting experience. Banhart will bring his band The Grogs along for the ride, and Oakland-based Dorothy and the Originals will open the show.
Tickets are still available; get 'em here.
T. Loper is a writer for the San Diego music blog Owl and Bear.