Dan Deacon at the Cedar, 11/3/12

Dan Deacon at the Cedar, 11/3/12
Photo By Nate Dykstra

Dan Deacon
With Height With Friends, Chester Endersby Gwazda, and Alan Resnick
The Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis
November 3, 2012

The typically sedate Cedar Cultural Center played host to an untamed dance party on Saturday night, as Dan Deacon brought his unorthodox electronic sounds and boundless creative energy to the West Bank, and got everyone moving both inside and outside the intimate club during his dynamic 90-minute set. Playing alongside dual drummers and another electronic artisan, Deacon's spirited performance unified a roomful of strangers, who ended up being as much a part of the show as the propulsive music itself.

See Also:
Dan Deacon on life in America, Occupy Wall Street, and the music industry
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The band took to the stage to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," with the lively crowd singing along to the lyrics and dancing wildly to the guitar breakdown. Deacon greeted us with the first of many acerbic jokes during the set, "I know you're thinking, 'What type of incredible pricks come on stage to "Bohemian Rhapsody?" These incredible pricks! The same type of pricks who also describe themselves as incredible."

Before the band even played a note, Deacon had us participating in his interactive performance. He asked us to get down on one knee, look up, and "find the part of the ceiling that represents our greatest moment of cowardice." We then had to point at that spot for a bit, before we focused our attention to whomever wasn't participating, pointing at them and teasing them for their poor Netflix preferences. Then, and only then, could the music start.

The set began with a raucous, rhythmic take on Bromst's "Of the Mountains," before Deacon instructed us to countdown from ten, skipping the number 7 for no reason really before "The Crystal Cat" got the whole room dancing to its churning pulse. Deacon then had the packed room form a circle in the middle, and started a dance competition that had just a few rules, "Rule #1, be sassy as fuck" and "Rule #3, no cowards. If tagged, you have to dance." That got a good portion of the crowd into it (and an equal part hanging towards the back, not wanting to be picked), as the band tore through "Konono Ripoff No. 1."

Deacon's performances are more about the shared, communal experience of the audience than even the music itself, which just serves as a conduit to unify and spark the fans to take their collective guard down. The show is a way for everyone to not only flaunt and celebrate their individuality, but to also take part in a jubilant happening. So songs like "Lots," which featured psychedelic, warped images of cheeseburgers, gremlins, and Woody Harrelson (?!), and "Crash Jam," which found the room divided again into two sides for a group interpretive dance, both served as sparks to get the audience together, uniting strangers under the guise of Deacon's collaborative electronic party.

Dan Deacon at the Cedar, 11/3/12
Photo By Nate Dykstra

During "Guilford Avenue Bridge," Deacon requested that everyone form a hand-bridge tunnel that leads outside the Cedar, with each person who passes through forming a part of the chain around the club. But he actually didn't know how big the building actually was (and how much of a logistical nightmare it was for the Cedar to have everyone leave and eventually reenter the club). So, this task took a while to get in motion, with the band playing a rather interminable free form freak out while the room slowly emptied of people. Deacon joined them outside to make sure things were going according to plan, before returning inside to add to the cacophony of sound.

People finally finished filing in two songs later, the "longest tunnel yet!" Deacon epically proclaimed. He then instructed everyone who downloaded his smartphone app to launch it before they kicked into "True Thrush," running a few sonic tests to insure that it was working. The room was then darkened so that only the flashing colors emanating from the 50-75 phones lit up the room, as they changed hues to match the tone of the song. The app also controlled the flashes on the phone as well, leaving the room lit up like strobe lights during some moments of the track. It was a celebratory, completely modern moment, and only strengthened the bond between the performer and his audience.

The set started to draw to a close with a triumphant "Wham City," before Deacon talked a moment about Voting No on November 6. Someone had given him a Vote No sticker, which he was very thankful for, and he encouraged all of us to Vote No on the marriage amendment, pleading, "Please don't let assholes who support this out-voice you." And with that, he led the group through an expansive U.S.A. suite, playing versions "I," "II" and "IV" from his new record, America. It brought the show to a festive, communal close, just what Dan Deacon had in mind.

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias: While I enjoy some of Dan Deacon's recorded material, his live show is where it's at. I hadn't seen him perform since he opened for Girl Talk at First Avenue in 2007.

The Crowd: A blend of kids who were there to get down, and those who just wanted to see what the spectacle was all about.

Overheard In The Crowd: "I am not dancing tonight. No way...OK, maybe just a little."

Random Notebook Dump: I still can't believe that the crowd formed a hand-tunnel around the entire Cedar--you likely won't see something like that ever again.


Of The Mountains

The Crystal Cat

Konono Ripoff No. 1


Crash Jam

Guilford Avenue Bridge


True Thrush

Wham City

Trippy Green Skull

USA I: Is a Monster

USA II: The Great American Desert

USA IV: Manifest

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