Pitchfork’s principled house show mini-series, “Juan’s Basement” is getting revived after a half-decade hiatus. Focused on low-fuss bands with big sounds, Juan has hosted an impressive cast of modern indie musicians, such as Beach House and Vampire Weekend, in his parent’s suburban basement. Bands usually perform a 20-30 minute set before filming a short interview from Juan himself. With the comeuppance of all things “cozy DIY” (artists like Clairo, Bane’s World, HOMESHAKE), Juan’s Basement supplies the homemade amenities to make one comfy set for an interview, and with the welcoming of HOMESHAKE and John Maus as the first two guests on the reboot, there should be enough emotional dichotomy to keep viewers, new and old, satisfied.
HOMESHAKE’s set was made for “Juan’s Basement.” Frontman and sole songwriter/producer Peter Sagar accustomed himself to playing noisy venues to teenage art school kids long ago, but the intimacy of HOMESHAKE’s music needs a patient, or at least quiet, audience to feel the full effect. Sagar’s band feeds off the gloomy atmosphere of a dimly lit basement with loose guitar playing and slowed down anti-versions of a couple tracks, not one noisy fan in sight. Juan gives the band some softball questions (compared to the John Maus interview) on his rearranged sofa before thanking the band for a wonderful set and letting them out the front door.
John Maus’ old live set gained notoriety for being a glorified karaoke night, Maus screaming his lyrics with uninhibited passion over the album recordings of his hypnagogic pop songs. As he tours his 2017 release, Screen Memories, he has added a full band to the experience, either to bolster his ticket sales or the integrity of his performance. Their set in Juan’s Basement takes a frontman who feeds off audience energy, throws him into an empty basement and asks him to perform the same way. To our delight, Maus doesn’t let the lack of humanity hold back his usual, emotionally charged performance. The band plays four tracks followed by a philosophically rich interview (run of the mill for John Maus interviews) detailing ‘hauntology’ and the Spectres of Marx, Maus speaking erratically, catching one idea and abandoning another train of thought seemingly at will.
Watch the “Juan’s Basement” series on Youtube, starting with noise rock band, Deerhoof!