12 Days of Spring Weekend: Don’t underestimate Dan Deacon

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With his oversized frames and propensity for knitwear, Dan Deacon might come off as a relic from the days four to five years ago when ‘hipster’ was still a valid social label. Yet looks can be deceiving. His unkempt beard screams dilettante, but his electronic compositions scream transistor-loving Beethoven. In his concerts, he becomes a conductor of a full synthetic orchestra and as well as the party motivator every Bar Mitzvah yearns for. You can’t sit down during a Dan Deacon show—it is nearly impossible. In other words, that typical Saturday grogginess should be no problem as long as you catch his set.

Although Deacon started producing quirky, high-energy electronic music in 2003, he has become something of a legend over the past six years. His earliest recordings spread through the Baltimore music scene via CD-R (remember those?) and he released his first commercial full-length in 2007 with Spiderman of the Rings. Touring behind Spiderman, Deacon made it his trademark to perform his concerts on a fold-out table in the middle of the audience. Whereas DJ’s mount themselves on stage platforms like four-on-the-floor deities, Deacon sweats amidst his own audience. “The Crystal Cat,” an early standout, mixes familiar pop progressions with high-tempo sequenced synths to imbue any listener with a relentless will to dance.

Until the release of Bromst in 2009, Deacon had performed most of his music on a custom, circuit-bent musical instrument that looked less like a synthesizer and more like a component of Doc’s DeLorean. Yet as he toured behind his  heavily-produced and, for lack of a better word, epic sophomore album, the artist took on a gang of supporting percussionists and multi-instrumentalists. And while he could no longer be the center of his own dance pit, Deacon began conducting audience movement from the stage. Audiences do not simply watch a Dan Deacon show, they become part of it as they dance in circles as a synchronized body. This might seem like some pop musician’s lame attempt at ‘communal’ experience, but as a firsthand witness, I can attest that it’s more energizing than tedious. If “The Crystal Cat” is an entertaining solo piece, “Snookered” is captivatingly symphonic.

Most recently, Deacon released arguably his most introspective work,  America. A loose concept album, America addresses the same sort of information-age alienation St. Vincent seems so profoundly aware of on her recent self-titled release. Despite the anxious subject matter, Deacon’s compositions are still beautiful and uplifting with countless layers and infectious melodies. Deacon tends to emphasize his most recent work on each tour, so prepare yourself for several of America‘s sprawling electro-narratives.

On Spring Weekend, Brown’s greatest and most festive tradition, we are lucky enough to have one of popular music’s great celebrators on our stage. Dan Deacon promises to keep the sounds stimulating, the lights elaborate and the spirits high—an optimal recipe for kicking Friday night’s hangover.

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