(Photo courtesy of Ben Rosenberg)
Better Than: Reading about the Baltimore warehouse scene in the N.Y. Times Style Section
Dan Deacon makes music for lovers. A sense of moony adoration hung in the very sweaty air at the crowded Bottom of the Hill last night, and it wasn’t just the many young couples in evidence making things mushy. It was the kids eagerly yelling “Dan Deacon!” as the man set up shop on a big Formica table on the floor in front of the stage, inches from the crowd pressing in on all sides. And it was “We love you Dan!” someone yelled as Deacon fitted a white Croakie onto his huge, goofy glasses. And it was Deacon himself, a huge balding hulk of a man, who obviously loves making transcendently huge and silly retro-electronic dance music for a roomful of spazz-dancing youngsters.
We stood at stage left, on tippy toes until someone near us commanded “Bum rush the stage!” It seemed wrong, like breaking the fourth wall or something, but when the guy continued, “come on guys, who’s gonna stop up us?” thirty kids jumped up on stage to watch Deacon from above, and to their credit no one from BotH made us get down for the entire set. Someone immediately stole or knocked down my date’s beer, but we were too busy dancing to miss it much.
Everyone rocked out unabashedly for the entire set of absurdly heartfelt electronics collages, fists pumping, hips jerking, but it was the final three songs that really showcased Deacon’s love for his fellow dancing man.
He turned up the audience participation for the end of the set, starting by telling everyone to back up and create a “wicked, wicked circle of trust” for a dance contest in front of his rig. Before launching into the spaz monster “Okie Dokie,” and its attendant dance showcase by random audience volunteers, he had everyone raise their arms, then join hands with the person on either side. “Repeat after me,” he said, and for the next two or three minutes lead the crowd in a sort of prayer of atonement to someone named Cory, whose Netflix DVD Deacon had apparently borrowed and lost. He ended by leading us in suggesting that this Cory fellow put a black CD in the Netflix envelope and send it back, since no one at the warehouse would notice.
For the penultimate tune “Wham City,” Deacon’s ode to the eponymous Baltimore art warehouse that was Ground Zero of this B-More scene, he’d prepared to give out eight goofy hooded robes to pre-selected audience members. By this point the scene was chaotic enough that Deacon just threw the robes to random audience members, and passed out a sheaf of Xeroxed copies of the song’s chorus. “Let’s get these as far back as we can -- one for every three people,” he instructed, and soon everyone was lighting the words with cell phones and lighters.
The robed-chorus idea would have been cool, had there been any time or space to set it up. But of course it was just as dramatic and way more rock’n’roll this way, with three of the most energetic dancers at the front of the stage grinding away in homemade white robes (props to those kids—it was already intolerably hot onstage) and strangers leaning over each other’s shoulders to read the words and sing along. Mushy, I tell you.
Personal Bias: I love Spiderman of the Rings, Deacon’s solo debut record; I was there with someone on whom I already have a huge, mushy crush.
Random Detail: At 26, I was far older than approx. 85% of the audience
By the way: Deacon’s playing tonight at 21 Grand in Oakland, and he was adamant that he’d really like you to come.