Let’s play a game. Imagine yourself at the center of the pit at the Great American Music Hall. A grizzly bear of a man, on the stage, just cut off his music and raised the house lights. You finally realize you’re sweating, knees quivering, and can smell the unmistakable odor of adrenaline wafting from the people around you. Then, that grizzly bear of a man on the stage orders everyone in the pit to step back and make a gigantic circle. You do as you’re told. The grizzly man tells everyone in the crowd that it’s the apocalypse, and everyone is dying from a dreadful disease.
The antidote is in the possession of the hands of one hairy, sweaty man in the middle of the gigantic circle. The hairy sweaty man will run around the circle, and once he high fives you, you will touch the person next to you, and the three of you will run around the circle, high-fiving people as you go, and then they will join running around circle. This causes a perpetual spiral of deliverance, and eventually, everyone in the crowd is running around in a circle together, like some sort of unified tribal ritual, reaching out to Nirvana.
This is a typical concert for that grizzly bear of a man, known as Dan Deacon. A wizard of electronics, Deacon has been making spazzy warped dance music for years. Jagged bass lines crumble along with spurts of sustained twinkles of high-pitched synths, all sounding like they came straight out of a kicked-in Atari. In the mode of his infectious lyrics of fantasy and animals, Dan Deacon barely uses his real voice to sing, but uses a vocoder that allows him to sound as high as a chipmunk, low as Elvis, or an angelic chorus of robots. Intricate pounds of wet toms, cracks of snares and the wild arpeggiation of xylophones carry everything to a feverish 200 BPM crescendo.
Dan Deacon in the past has always played solo, his equipment like the mangled heart of a robot, dumped on a single table. He usually plays “guerilla style,” meaning he plays not on the main stage, but in the crowd. To further breaking this wall of audience and artist relationship, he instigates dance offs or promotes people to run around the venue without remorse.
However this time, in correlation to his new album, “Bromst,” Deacon orchestrated a full-fledged band (all dressed in the same Kraftwerkian or Devo-esque jumpsuits) comprised of his fellow friends of the Wham City artists collective in Detroit. Three synth players, two drummers, two guitarists, and a very skilled xylophone player, all synchronized and in-command by Dan Deacon. The new material, more focused, melodic, and at times more emotional, than past material, still upholds Deacon’s unique compositional quirkiness. The end result: Native American tribal music (intense drumming, blissed out chanting), swelling and crashing with Deacon’s unmatchable brand of electronics.
However this new sense of live orchestration with his music did not stop Dan Deacon’s infamous manipulation of people’s emotions. Everybody seems to have his or her own way to dance to Dan Deacon. Pogoing, moshing, swinging, shuffling, hustling, 2-step, there’s no wrong way. You get so enthralled in dancing, you say to yourself, “Why not listen to this guy and do what he tells me?” So, when Dan says spin in circles with your eyes closed, to cool off, meditate and have some “personal space”, you will probably do it even though you’re probably going to embarrassingly trip into five people. However, there lies the great paradox that amazes me at a Dan Deacon show. You have the choice of not to participate in these ludicrous games. You’ll still have fun not doing them, and some of them can seriously hurt you. But it always amazes me to see 80% of the audience in these sold out shows participating.
A Dan Deacon show is complete anarchy, but at the end of the night, you look at the people around you, and think, “Hey, we just danced our [butts] off for an hour straight, accomplished the Gauntlet, yelled till our throats were ripping during the sing-along, and did not have an epileptic seizure because of the insane numbers of strobe lights.” From that, a Dan Deacon show achieves what a good live concert should do: bring people together; not in the sense that we all stood and witnessed this amazing artist play, but that we experienced the music, and even better, we experienced each other and ourselves.