There is a scene, based largely in Baltimore, that calls itself "future shock." It has little to do with Herbie Hancock and even less to do with Curtis Mayfield and everything to do with giving punk rock an Atari lobotomy. Monday night's bill at the Triple Rock featured two of the main pillars of the scene—the Saturday morning Lucky Charms-and-Mountain Dew multimedia duo Video Hippos, and human tornado electronics-manipulator/showman de-luxe Dan Deacon. (What afrobeatists NOMO were doin' sandwiched between them, Lord only knows, but they were a bit of a much-needed palate cleanser and they covered Sun Ra, so there's no complaints here.)
Deacon's latest release, which has the shit-yeah title Spiderman of the Rings, has gotten a fair amount of attention lately thanks to Pitchfork's rave review and the subsequent baffled music blog kneejerkery that typically follows Pitchfork rave reviews.
If the anti-hipster backlash choo-choo-wagon runs its way through Deacon, then everyone loses: imagine a balding, chunky dude in a battered sleeveless Fred Flinstone t-shirt and glasses that look like they belong to toilet-mouth transient cat-caretaker Bubbles from the Canadian comedy TV series Trailer Park Boys, running his voice through some sort of pitch distortion contraption and clambering his way through a bizarre geegaw-heavy setup that included an unreliable iPod Shuffle and a distressed Casio and a ton of flashing lights and a strobe-lit green plastic skull on a pole.
Imagine this all on the floor, so half the crowd is perched onstage huddled eight feet above him. Now imagine that what results from all this, music-wise, sounds a bit like the candy-raver version of Alan Vega's Suicide. Only more manic.
Music-wise-type stuff isn't all there is to a Dan Deacon show, of course. There's scads of audience participation craziness: a show-starting countdown with convoluted and hilarious emotion-stoking instructions (from ten down to one, the audience was supposed to yell like they'd just seen the Joker and Prince walking around with two dicks and a couple saxophones and a purple ring or something; I was a bit woozy so maybe I got a crucial detail or two just a little wrong), a dance contest (participants included an emo/gothish-looking breakdancer and a big dude in a red ski mask, both of whom ruled), an attempted new-band project called "Mouth Ladder," for which Deacon penned a song about sneaking ("get out of my house/get out of my life"), and a set-closing rendition of Spiderman of the Rings 12-minute super-jam "Wham City" where the stage-going crowd held the lyrics aloft as a small assortment of people on the floor donned "gross robes" and pogoed madly. Get this man a television show. Now.