Dan Deacon Concert Review
Creative electronic artist human-tunnels his way into the hearts of Granada patrons.
By Marc Schroeder
As much as I love the genre, I will admit that most electronic shows have a handicap – an additional hurdle to jump over to achieve the sort of live energy that cannot be found by just listening to the albums. Traditional live bands have the advantage of several members on stage, swinging their instruments around. The kinetics are implicit (usually, unless a band really has no stage presence). When electronic musicians are on stage, often they are lacking in swingable instruments (we tried that – keytars were a bad invention), usually have fewer band members, and are tied to their samplers and effects for the duration of the show. To prevent the ‘oh they just press play on their computers’ reaction from the crowd (screw those people, by the way), measures must be taken to install a live experience that the crowd is glad they came for. Often this is done with visuals like heavy use of lights and projectors, but sometimes that still isn’t enough. The overcoming of this handicap is probably Dan Deacon’s best strength. Dan Deacon knows how to make a crowd of people have a good time.
I have seen Dan Deacon before, a few years ago. As a result, I expected the ridiculously fun and authentic crowd participation that took place, it gave me the chance to see the delight all over the faces of people who didn’t expect to be at this kind of show just then.
But first, openers.
I got there in the middle of the first set of three, which happened to be not music at all, but a comedy show. Alan Resnick, who also operates the visuals for Deacon, performed first. I am assuming not a lot of people were sure what to think of Resnick, who’s last gag was a computer ‘comedy program’ which featured an animated head that responded to his jokes. The humor came from the computer program not understanding the joke, but still responding, making it spontaneous and disjointed. I have always found malfunctioning character animations (like glitching video games and grotesque Poser models) funny, so maybe Resnick was more up my alley than most.
Second up was Chester Endersby Gwazda, the keyboard player for Deacon, on guitar. Gwazda played with a drummer and a backing track, some fun songs, a few covers. Would have been cool to have a whole band up there playing with him, but it sounded pretty good anyways.
Last before Deacon was Hight with Friends. I really did not expect to hear Rap-Rock just then, but after a comedy show and general rock ‘n roll when we’re here to see an electronic act, how surprised could I really be? In the way Alan Resnick was my thing, Height with Friends was not. It sounded like they were really going for a Beastie Boys kind of thing (which is just about the first and last entry on the ‘Rap-Rock I Can Enjoy’ list). They had lots of energy, which is good, and it did bring out the best dancing I saw all night; two guys pretending to prison shank each other repeatedly.
So, on to Deacon.
Before the show, a message was put on the screen saying that if you had a smart phone, please ‘help us make this dream a reality by downloading the Dan Deacon app’. More on that later.
Right before the show started, the house music changed to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Obviously, the crowd starting singing along. I’m pretty sure this was a subliminal way to unite the crowd before the show, sort of like a salesman asking if you hate cleaning messes before selling you cleaner to start the sale out on a ‘yes’. Of course you hate cleaning messes, of course you sing along to Queen. It makes sense though. Deacon asks a lot of his crowd.
I searched for a set list from the show, but one does not seem to exist online at the time of writing. My memory is not good enough to give you one worth typing out, but I know his set spanned at least three albums deep (counting his latest, America – someone correct me if there was older stuff played) – Standouts to me from the set include “Wham City”, “Snookered”, and “The Crystal Cat” (was my favorite last time – still is). So I guess that means I like his older stuff. He did end his set with all the parts of ‘America’ from his new album, which was really cool, but by that time, I was so tired from all the stuff he had us to previously I was watching from up the stairs.
I am guessing, unless you are a massively hardcore Deacon fan (and I’m sure there were more than a few at the Granada that night), what you will remember most from the concert was the crowd interaction activities. These include a 5-second turn dance contest in the middle of the dance floor, left-side vs. right-side follow the leader dance, a human tunnel that left the back of the Granada , though the parking lot, and in the front door (best about this was the confused look from the frat bros coming from Brothers and seeing an entire venue of people making a human tunnel around The Granada – “god damn hipsters”), and a smartphone light show using the Dan Deacon app. I tried to get as many pictures as I could, but I did not want to be the asshole who dismembered the human tunnel by taking a picture, or diminished the experience of the iPhone light show by having my camera app open.
It’s nice to see a performer have a special talent for uniting an audience, and honestly, the crowd at The Granada was a really great one. Most seemed really happy to play along, and the whole show was better for it. If only all electronic acts were this deeply creative.
You can hear some Dan Deacon along with other choice electronic jams on Input/Output every Thursday night at 10pm, only on your sound alternative, KJHK.