Monday, April 6, 2009

Concert Review: Dan Deacon, First Unitarian Church, Philadelphia, April 3

Dan Deacon is getting a lot bigger in a lot of ways. The shows are bigger--his current tour swaps his one-man-band aesthetic for a dozen-plus ensemble. The audiences are bigger--the rowdy sell-out crowd at Philly's First Unitarian Church on Friday visibly pissed off a Deacon who just wanted fans to dance without pushing him around. And I daresay the man is bigger--Deacon's packing a few extra pounds around the belly, too!

The opening half of the show was plagued by an over-enthusiastic audience. Deacon performs right in the front of the crowd, hunched over his table of electronics, and it seemed that between every song he grew increasingly irritated at having to ask the crowd not to push into each other or him, knocking him against his equipment. He was, understandably, already cranky from a bus breakdown that delayed the show's doors from opening until 9 p.m., and things didn't really get into a groove until Deacon instructed the audience members to take two steps back and wave their arms around to make sure they weren't bumping into anybody. Granted, half a minute into the next song everyone crowded together again, but most seemed to take the hint and made an effort not to be obnoxious.

It was interesting side to see where a guy who organizes all kinds of fun audience dances and games--he had audience members rooting for a dance contest between people dressed as a circle and a triangle, and closing their eyes and spinning in slow circles to "Snookered"--draws the line at "too rowdy." But, as he pointed out, it wasn't a hardcore show. No one goes to see Dan Deacon to get beat up and come home bruised.

Once the crowd settled, Deacon seemed to loosen up for the most part, aside from frequent requests to the sound guy for "more synth in monitor four!" even during crowd dance-alongs. It shows the interesting dichotomy behind Deacon's personality and music. Yes, it's still a guy in the tackiest imaginable outdoor-sporting-store deer t-shirt with pitched-shifted cartoon vocals singing his songs under the light of a glowing green plastic skull. He's also a music conservatory alumnus who studied electro-acoustic and computer music composition, and his music is absurd but not simple.

It was a pleasant surprise, then, to find out that Bromst is such a fantastic dance record. Deacon's ensemble focused almost exclusively on songs off his new album, aside from his trademark "The Crystal Cat" and non-album (from what I can find) concert favorite "Silence Like the Wind Overtakes Me." The songs are lush and complex, but driving and incredibly well-paced. On headphones, they can be appreciated for the intricate layering and hypnotic effect, but on the concert floor the ensemble pulses and swells, and the songs seem to retreat and explode in the perfect manner to keep the crowd invigorated and dancing throughout the whole set.

There's also a sense of community at a Deacon show that I hope doesn't go away with the increased crowd sizes, as it seemed at the show's start. It's admirable that Deacon keeps himself right in the the crowd, and dancing alongside him and other fans is sheer fun. Deacon gave a spiel encouraging the audience to dance, even those who thought they couldn't, because the fun of dancing is precisely about not caring if you can or not, but enjoying yourself. The speech might not have peeled any wallflowers, but the music and the rush of the crowd did.

Dan Deacon is getting bigger, but that hasn't clipped the sense of joy from his music. Bromst seems more refined and even a bit more serious than its predecessor, Spiderman of the Rings, but it's just as fun to dance to. A huge ensemble on stage just gives the music more force. Here's hoping the the increasing crowds can take Deacon at his own terms and keep the party going.

Concert-goer shoutouts:
-To the fat morbidly obese blimp-like practically-swelling-before-my-eyes-like-that-one-guy-from-Big-Trouble-in-Little-China dude who took his shirt off: I literally overheard someone say he jumped back five feet when you disrobed, and referred to you as the guy who is always at shows ruining them. Knock it the fuck off. I know Dan Deacon is about unselfconscious fun, but being shoved into an unhygienic lump of a man is no one's idea of fun.
-To the tall dude in the tux who was dancing with toy Hulk gloves before the show: Kudos! This is the type of fun I expect at a Dan Deacon gig!


D said...

The morbidly obese guy was New Jersey resident Darren Mabee. He's a pretty common element of Philadelphia and New York area concerts (namely Man Man shows) and the leader of his own band, We Are The Seahorses. It's rather funny that you brought him up, as he was singled out at a show last year when Dan Deacon played at the Popped! music festival in Philly (google it; it made the blog rounds). Darren is like an analogue to Dan, being abrasive to those that don't understand him, and really abrasive to those that do. Behind his disturbing exterior, he's actually a rather nice guy that just wants to have fun (and a little attention); at one point he managed to get to the front of the crowd and swing danced with me to The Crystal Cat as we both screamed the lyrics. Actually, it should be pointed out that Darren and Dan have been friends for a couple years.
On a different note, the costumes were Triangle and Circle.
By the way, I was the guy in the tux. Thank you!

(by Pango!) said...


While I am sure that Darren is a nice guy, there is certainly a line between having a good time and being obnoxious, and you cross it when you prevent others from having a good time. I imagine he'd like to have people think "oh, hey, it's that jolly dude who's always wailin' and havin' a good time! Rock on!" when in fact the reaction is "Ugh, not this asshole." That is not the kind of concert regular you want to be.

To clarify my complaints, I am pretty sure I saw him at the Daniel Johnston show at the Troc last spring, and he was actually ruining the mood of a very intimate show by yelling crass, loud, unfunny remarks between songs. This, in fact, is what really bothered me, and seeing him again was just a flashback. It was a lot more annoying than someone being goofy at a Dan Deacon concert, which, on reflection, is hard to be mad about.

P.S. Believe it not, I was also the dude behind you in line whose personal space you violated and who got your business card. I will stipulate it in my will to call upon your services in the event of my funeral.

P.P.S. What a mental lapse on the shapes. I have corrected the post.

P.P.P.S. How'd you stumble upon my review?

D said...

I was googling the concert info, because I like reading concert reviews and skimming for pictures, and yours was the only review.
And for the sake of conversation, the Hulk hands belonged to my friend, Sam.

(by Pango!) said...

That is right. I saw him rocking them inside the venue, as well.

seahorsedale said...

"I am pretty sure I saw him at the Daniel Johnston show at the Troc last spring"

What does pretty sure mean, mr blog journalist?? Did you see me or not? Did you see my mouth move when those assholes were heckling daniel?

No in fact, you did not. I was at that show, i'm flattered you spotted me, and i may have been carrying on in my way before Daniel's set, but in NO WAY did yell, insult, or try to steal the spotlight from daniel when he took the stage. It was not that kind of show, and daniel is not that sort of performer. Please before you "clarify your opinions" of me please clarify your facts about me.

Yours Truly,
Darren Mabee

Pango! said...


I am considering "Mr. Blog Journalist" as my new tagline.

P.S. Believe it or not, we sang to each other at the King Khan show last week!