Were the Weirdos in the Crowd at Dan Deacon Part of the Show?

Dan Deacon
Dan Deacon
Photo by Timothy Norris

Dan Deacon
Center for the Arts Eagle Rock
February 27, 2015

There were a handful of people more memorable than Dan Deacon at his Friday night concert at the Center for the Arts in Eagle Rock. A man paced wildly in the back of the room, listening to his headphones throughout the performance, occasionally pausing to cheer at Deacon. A young woman danced a little bit too insanely, often whipping her hair in a circular motion, creating a radial space around her. And no one will likely forget the elderly woman that scared the bejesus out of most attendees, moving frantically through the crowd with no sense of personal space, her vacant grin betraying her out-there mental state.

The thing is, if you’ve seen Dan Deacon before, it was hard to know whether or not these folks were part of the show, planted in the audience to further elevate the event. Deacon prides his shows on being unique communal experiences, and nothing about how the experimental electronic artist pushes fans to engage with his music and with one another would really surprise.

“Last time I was in town I was playing in the middle of a basketball court,” Deacon recalled before his opening song, “Mind of Fire.” “It’s nice to perform in a place that will never be used for professional athletics.”

Deacon’s banter is often built around absurd tangents, sage wisdom the occasional non-sequitur, and he even apologized toward the end of his 80-minute set for rambling on too long. But the truth is that his long-winded, often hilarious speeches are as much a part of the show as the music. Other elements, like the dance contest and the group interpretive dancing, were expected but welcome, as Deacon has unveiled them countless times before — including at the “basketball court,” which was the Forum, a venue that hasn't been used for pro sports in a long time (Deacon opened there for Arcade Fire).

Dan Deacon fans
Dan Deacon fans
Photo by Timothy Norris

So were the strange characters in the crowd part of Deacon's routine? Probably not. At this point in his career, having just released album number four, the excellent Gliss Riffer, he doesn’t need antics to fill a room. Now more than ever, the music stands as strong as the presentation, with new songs "Learning to Relax" and "Sheathed Wings" standing tall next to beloved favorites "The Crystal Cat," the "U.S.A." suite, and the modern classic, "Wham City." "Learning to Relax" in particular demonstrates Deacon's taming of his glitchy electronics through his pitch-shifted vocals, a skill he's been perfecting throughout his career. 

During “Feel the Lightning,” the first single from the new collection and the most traditional verse-chorus-verse track in his repertoire, Deacon asked the audience to sing along if they knew the words, a bold request considering the track is on an album less than a week old. But people did. Not only that, fans carried a train of crowd-surfers one at a time from the front of the room to the back, arms raised, in probably the least punk but most beautiful display of the concert tradition in recent memory. Of all the aspects of the show that were not in Deacon's control, this was the best. When Deacon announced that it might have been his favorite show in L.A. yet, it wasn't hard to believe him. 

Set list below

Dan Deacon fans
Dan Deacon fans
Photo by Timothy Norris

Set list:

Mind of Fire
Sheathed Wings
The Crystal Cat
Meme Generator
Wham City
Steely Blues
When I Was Done Dying
Learning to Relax
Feel the Lightning
USA I: Is a Monster
USA II: The Great American Desert
USA IV: Manifest

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