Dan Deacon is not a witch, nor is he a licensed fortune teller, hypnotist or palm reader, but he is some kind of magical. The traveling Baltimore music man stunned the children Saturday night at the Triple Rock with sounds, images and feelings they had only dreamt existed and changed their lives forever. A few years older than most of the crowd and with a pen in hand, I am able to recount some of the glorified details from that fateful evening.
The sun was still shining as I walked up to the Triple Rock at 7:45 p.m, passing Dan Deacon and ensemble's tour vehicle: a brightly colored school bus that runs on veggie oil and miscellaneous alt fuel donations. Upon entering the venue, the children-dominated crowd (and by children, I mean those who cannot sip the good drink and/or buy lottery tickets) was glowing with anticipation, while the few older crowd members chilled on the periphery of the dance floor.
The lights went low and the members of Deacon's ensemble filed out to their designated spots. The small stage was packed to the max with equipment to accommodate the mass of musicians; 15 in all, playing drums, snyth, marimbas and mallets, saxophone/clarinet and various electronic machines. The ensemble was dressed in white jumpsuits and some had little lights attached to their forheads like miners. Deacon himself donned a glittery hat and his usual Sally Jessy Rapheal glasses with tape on one corner and a sling fitting his right arm.
Deacon grabbed the mic and told his crew to start out with a sound-check, test song: "play from memory, your best version of the theme from Friends." A mass of cluttered, unrecognizable sound erupted. "Now, play from memory, the theme from Cheers. Audience sing along." Another loud burst of madness, that surprisingly ended with a glockenspiel playing notes from the actual chorus. Deacon said it was the best he'd heard all tour.
Then the magic of a Dan Deacon show began. Deacon told everyone to close their eyes-- it was time to "get in the zone." We envisioned a beach, empty as we walked, until a lone lawn chair appeared. Upon the lawn chair, Deacon told us to imagine finding an "un-opened DVD of Fight Club." It was incredibly heavy. We read the special features. Then there was something about parents, lemonade, a shovel and frantically burying the DVD in the sand. More about parents, a word about curly fries and then our eyes were to be opened.
Next Deacon instructed a series of motions that ended with everyone knealing on the floor, arms and index fingers pointing at a single man standing who had been discovered texting during the entire story telling process. (If you haven't noticed, Deacon is known for getting audiences to do the most random things possible without any hesitation).
The music began. Deacon wasn't on the floor like his previous tours, but he was in the front, screaming into the mic and orchestrating the crowd's sing-a-longs and hand gestures like a true conductor. The ensemble was an overwhelming electronic swirl of percussion, laser cats, sweet melodies and beautiful chimes. It was a Dan Deacon show without its ADHD meds. All I could manage to write down for a description was "SOUND", with a wavy line underneath.
Psychedelic screen saves flashed behind the band and images of polar bears, mountains, cats and even Wishbone the dog were incorporated with playback of the live crowd. The audience ate it up-- jumping and dancing in a trance of amazement. Deacon played songs from both his new album, Bromst, and older favorites, all which sounded similarly wild and heavy. People were sweaty and smiling, especially the dude who crowd surfed for about ten minutes straight.
The highlight of Deacon's shows is always the orchestrated crowd interaction. My personal favorite this time around was the exaggerated human tunnel that brought every person in the Triple Rock outside the venue and onto the sidewalk in one long chain. Also of note: the "fancy" dance contest. Audience favorite track: "Silence Like the Wind Overtakes Me."
Weird. Inspirational. Exhausting and exuberantly fabulous. Two high-fives for Dan Deacon and 15 for his ensemble.