Average People, Exceptional Rocking: Dan Deacon Show Review


As I looked around the floor past the pipes and wires that so typify the Middle East Downstairs, I tried to pin down this show's demographic. What kind of people, I wondered, would come see a sweaty, balding twenty-something twiddle a few knobs? I was wrong on both counts; first in thinking that a "kind" of person would show up to this glitch rock concert. This was the most impressively average-looking group of people I've ever seen. Second, I was mistaken in my assumption that this greasy hipster couldn't rock the fucking house.

Deacon came accompanied by a fifteen piece ensemble, arrayed across the stage and resembling nothing so much as a strange, futuristic orchestra, dressed in matching white jump suits. The ensemble, consisting of three full drum kits, three guitars and a bass, four keyboards, three full xylophones, and a few other miscellaneous instruments gave life to Deacon's normally artificial-sounding jams. Literally, too. The percussion-heavy set list made one drummer look like he was going to keel over. The majority of the tracks played came from Deacon's new album /Bromst/. For those who have heard it, yes, his ensemble not only played those same songs, but rocked the hell out of them. For those who haven't heard it and aren't too judgmental of well-arranged glitch rock, go listen to it and have your mind blown.

Throughout all this, Deacon himself stood at the fore of the stage presiding over his table of arcane and mystical electronics and wires (controlling, among other things, a blinking green skull visible from anywhere in the venue). If you know nothing else about Dan Deacon, know that he knows how to run a show. He knew when to kick it and when to slow things down to let both the fans and his musicians collect themselves. He crooned into the mic with frenetic impunity, somehow making his distorted, Alvin the Chipmunkesque voice not beautiful, surely, but entirely appropriate, like he created a small, new reality that his voice filled the whole of.

The show had its downsides. Sometimes the already-bordering-on-obnoxious glitch noise in a few of the songs reached unbearable levels. And the crowd, which fell like a set of crazed worshippers to Deacon, became distraught in their religious fervor and pushed a little too much, almost injuring a few people in the fray (this reporter took refuge near a photographer, whose camera exerted a strange aura of calm in a two-foot radius around it.). It should speak to intensity of the show, at least, how, as far as I could tell, the entire floor was alive with motion.

But by far the most fun aspect of the show were Deacon's antics: playful, farcical, even kind of creepy. To open the show, he had us hold a note, and, following his hand gestures, increase or decrease the volume of our voices from a hum to a roar, using that to launch into his first song. Next, he had us raise our hands in the air and slowly bring them down on the person's head in front of us, all while imagining "the happiest moments in our lives." Later, he had one of the drummers crowd-surf while an ironic glitch version of "When the Saints Go Marching In" played. Two other highlights: he had us form the "dazzling human spiral" (watch it on Youtube), and the "human gauntlet" which took the majority of the crowd upstairs, out on the street, and back through the Middle East Restaurant (Deacon explained: "We're going to be the safest motherfuckers that ever lived!"). It all culminated in the crowd singing "Silence like the wind overtakes me," while Deacon and ensemble ramped up to their full climatic fury.

Emerging into the cool night sometime after midnight, I again watched as the excited and sweaty crowd dispersed, returning to their undoubtedly average lives (This reporter is no exception.). But when you experience Dan Deacon, because he is an experience I feel no shame in admitting, you can never return to normality, not really, not when you've just rocked so very hard.