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Friday, April 24, 2009

Last Night: Dan Deacon at the Great American Music Hall

Posted By on Fri, Apr 24, 2009 at 8:12 AM

  • Brian Moss
Dan Deacon

Great American Music Hall

April 23, 2009

Better Than:
Noise rock.

Roughly a year ago some visiting friends from Minneapolis turned me on to what would almost instantly become one of my personal favorite YouTube videos of all time. Titled "Drinking Outta Cups," the short features a nearly nonsensical, shit-talking animated lizard with the persona of a Jersey wise guy on a peyote trip. It was love at first sight. Now, a hundred watches later, while potentially offensive to the uber politically correct, the lizard's ranting one liners still bust my guts. To my surprise, after some quick research following the onset of my reptilian love affair I found out that the lizard's voice was done by none other than Baltimore electro-spazz Dan Deacon. Already familiar with his sonic endeavors, I was pleased to find out that Deacon was a multi-faceted artist, and most of all, one with an apparent appreciation for ludicrous and crass comedy.

As it turns out, the man's full of surprises. Although at first listen his genre-transcending mesh of synth-heavy, digital dance party psychedelia may come across as far more gimmicky than orchestral, Deacon has a masters degree in electro-acoustic and computer composition from Purchase College. Given some scrutiny, avant-garde, masterful, intricate, and stunningly beautiful qualities can be found in his music. All hail the 8-bit Mozart. However, in the live environment, much of the subtle wonders and layered elements can get lost in the shuffle of the party. And if it's a party you're looking for, a Dan Deacon show will likely deliver.

  • Brian Moss
Released last month on Carpark Records, Deacon is currently touring in support of his new record, "Bromst". Last night he blew through town for an all-ages show at Great American Music Hall.

Holy fucking hipsters, Batman. Arriving during the opening act's first joint I soon found myself drowning in a sweaty sea of beards, Thunderdome hair, neon, and varying displays of hideously ironic fashion. Thanks to the Pitchfork hype machine, the show maxed capacity.

  • Brian Moss

After a 40-minute set up Deacon rambled his way to the effect-laden mic with a shoulder-slinged arm. The result of an alleged trip down the oil-slicked touring school bus stairs, the handicap didn't cause much of a hindrance. Baring another surprise, instead of the usual soloist playing on the floor ordeal, Deacon took the stage accompanied by ten plus instrumentalists. Great American's floor shook. What was once bound to late night makeshift gatherings, galleries and house parties translated itself into the limelight with grace.

Raging and bursting with energy, Deacon conducted both his collaborators and the audience with command. Strobes pulsed, stage-propped skulls throbbed, drones rang out, low-brow screensaver psych-art was projected, organic instrumentation and dense neo-classic techno melded and boomed. Showcasing much of his new record, Deacon's set, while managing to remain relatively childishly fun, seemed to emphasize intelligence. Complex pyschedlics, existentialist tonality, and immense aural engineering superseded one-time dance anthems. However, the audience's interaction with Deacon helped to retain that old warehouse show feel. Blindly following his microphone beckons, they danced and pranced with expected white-washed art school mannerisms. Per request they shut their eyes and spun in slow, stoney circles like any good aspiring retro hippie would. Later in the set, they sheepishly ran up and down the venue's stairs, one thousand people strong. What started on stage found it's way to the floor and back again. Meanwhile, I wall flowered it, taking in Deacon's new severity and laughing internally at the crowd's ample supply of social targets.

It's a strange thing to watch artists evolve. The newly ensembled live addition along with the new material made the academia and brilliance far more apparent than a sloppy house party ever could. However, the progression partially makes me long for the innocence of the earlier material. I left the symphony of pseudo-freak with my ears ringing and a strong desire to avoid cool kid hangouts for at least a month. While the turn towards a newfound sort of epicly-inclined sonic maturity and introspection is greatly appreciated, part of me wonders what Mr. Deacon's hammered and berating cartoon lizard alter-ego would have to say about all of this.

  • Brian Moss
Critic's Notebook 

Personal Bias:
Seahorses 4eva.

Random Detail: Closed-eyed Pancho Dude, I hope the flash on my camera didn't harsh your mellow.

By the Way: The posi bubble was strong tonight. Despite contrived social roles and fashion, a little kindness and weed stink goes a long way.

Also See: Some video footage from last night.
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Brian Moss


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