I have mostly ignored Devendra Banhart, somewhat regrettably. I think it started with some phishhead wearing filthy Teva’s talking about him in ’02 and I just made a shallow association that stuck. The super strange name and Banhart’s excessive beardy look didn’t help dispel these notions and it was not until about 2 years ago I caught on to his genius. This guy Daniel Arnold, who’s opinion I generally trust went crazy talking about him one night at Lil’ Frankies in Manhattan while I was totally distracted by Elijah Wood. I didn’t listen to a lick of the first half of the story because I was desperately trying to figure out a way to talk to Elijah and make him my best friend without coming off like a Hobbit-crazed Tolkien lit nerd – which I am.
[Devendra Banhart, photo by Daniel Arnold]
Youk now when you’re hanging out in the same five foot space with a celebrity you like and someone starts telling a story? You can’t really listen to their stupid story at first because you’re overcome with your own delusions of grandeur. But Daniel launched into this animated telling of his little brother all wide-eyed going up to Devendra Banhart after some religious experience at a recent show, and Devendra turned to his little brother and made him feel like he was the only person in the entire world. The skinny singer hugged him and performed some kind of magic whereby he pulled some heirloom or precious metal from Daniel’s little brother’s sweaty shirt pocket that had not been there before, lovingly handed it to him and hugged him again.
I became so mystified by this bizarre but beautiful story I forgot all about Elijah Wood. What a wonderful thing he did with Daniel’s little brother. Rare is the rock star who hugs sweaty (male) kids at his shows, and cares enough to really connect them, even for a few precious moments. Rare indeed, for anyone these days.
So it is with great thrill I have been listening to this Wizards new record, “What Will We Be.” You have got to hear the song “Maria Lionza” (track 10 below). It refers no doubt to the goddess of nature, love, peace, and harmony in Venezuelan tradition where Banhart was raised, but it reminds me of good friends and love, and precious moments. Somewhere around 4 minutes and 20 seconds it takes off into the most subtle genius, it’s like having an American Jorge Ben whispering the most important reminder in your ear.
What Will We Be
(You’ll have to click play full song to hear the whole thing on imeem for now)