Dan Deacon might seem out of place if you saw him in the streets. His oversized glasses of you-guess-the-color might alone force you to surmise that there’s something quirky about this guy, that he must have some sort of offbeat hobby or something that distinguishes him from the rest of us. Turns out you’d be right.
During his college years at the Conservatory of Music at State University of New York at Purchase, he experimented with all kinds of electronic equipment, releasing several albums that are nearly impossible to categorize for their sporadic content.
His shape-shifting 2003 album is a good example of his early output. It swiftly moves through sequences of highly unpredictable sounds and textures. Songs use effects like vocal gibberish, strange monologue, ambient sounds and seemingly random note combinations to bring the listener to places they have almost undoubtedly never been before musically. It is very interesting stuff, but definitely not the kind of thing people rally behind. Not surprisingly, Deacon isn’t known for his work back then.
In 2007, his crazed electro-pop piece exploded onto the scene with enormous success. He’s adopted a unique sound combining layered, bouncing synths with driving percussion, topped by either his voice or, more often, a choir of cartoon-like voices that sing like incorruptible kids on a next-generation frequency.
Deacon works in a “feel-good” zone these days and you’re apt to either love his music or find it a little annoying or excessive. Either way, the adaptation of his recent songs to the live setting is undeniably awesome. After touring with a 12-man band in support of his newest album , he brought a solo set to the Eyedrum here in Atlanta and really got the crowd going.
Opening act Nuclear Power Pants was first to take the stage. Hailing from Baltimore like Deacon, their spaced-out, fuzz-rock warmed up the anxious crowd.
The women in the band wore large polygon neon green masks with orange neon teeth, which apparently is their usual concert attire.
The Deacon/Power Pants combination was an interesting one, their similarities lying mostly in their oddball swagger and distinct sound, but they were enough for the two to line up a string of dates together.
After the Power Pants’ set, the small stage placed in the corner of the room was cleared completely, and the sound guys started setting up Deacon’s table on the floor.
He tends to get the crowd involved in crazy ways, usually in the form of Jimmy Fallon-like “shared experiences,” and having his set-up on the floor just makes it easier. Also, it’s much cooler for the people standing right next to him.
“Baltihorse,” one of the songs where Deacon manipulates his voice to sound like a cartoon, acted as the soundtrack to an all-out dance contest starting with two people, one of whom happened to be my friend sporting an astronaut helmet. My personal favorite was near the end of the night when “Wham City,” the 11-minute centerpiece of (and also the name of his Baltimore “artist collective”), played during the formation of a human tunnel that snaked all the way past Deacon’s bio-fuel school/tour bus in the parking lot. What followed was a much needed intermission.
He only played songs from and , but it made sense since they are the most upbeat and all fit nicely together. His older songs would probably sound odd in comparison.
To put the show simply, it seemed impossible not to have fun. Deacon turns the experience into a playground, different from listening to his records. When music like his fills the room, you can set other things aside and just get a charge out of the moment.