Desaparecidos – Webster Hall – February 26, 2013
Desaparecidos, the post-hardcore/punk band formed by Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst in the early 2000s, have recently reunited and taken their politically charged show on the road, appearing before a sold-out crowd at Webster Hall last night. Initially inspired by anger at the state of world affairs during the George W. Bush presidency, Desaparecidos’ return can be seen as a clear message that the world is in just as dire straights (if not worse) than it was when Oberst wrote the band’s early songs. Desaparecidos’ new material treads on some similar thematic territory as 2002’s Read Music/Speak Spanish: the evils of capitalism, materialism and an unjust war—with new songs specifically targeting such topics as discriminatory immigration policies in Arizona (“MariKKKopia”) and the plight of the 99 percent (“The Left Is Right”).
While addressing the crowd, Oberst acknowledged that undertones of pessimism and sarcasm run through the sentiments of their songs, but he expressed a hope to rattle people out of their own apathy. A noble message, though to witness the throngs of people in the crowd passionately screaming along with lyrics like “I want to pledge allegiance to the country where I live/ I don’t want to be ashamed to be American,” from “The Happiest Place on Earth,” it seems possible that Oberst may be largely preaching to the (angry, disenfranchised) choir. Even so, if Desaparecidos can use their biting lyrics and heavy guitar lines to incite and inspire their fans to become more involved in political discourse and activism, all under the guise of letting loose at a pretty great rock show, it would seem that their reunion has accomplished its goals. —Alena Kastin