Echoplex 10th Anniversary Party
Dan Deacon has built his reputation on his live shows, wild messes of frenetic dancing, comedic theatrics, and audience participation, all powered by the Baltimore-based artist's electro-pop. Last night, at the Echo's 10th Anniversary Party, Deacon managed to turn the Echoplex into a complete circus and transform the audience into willing participants in his own twisted fantasy.
Before his set, security asked everyone in the front row to leave. Confused, we all stepped back, unsure whether we were supposed to move temporarily or leave for the duration of the show. Eventually, all was revealed: Deacon's techs carried over a table with his equipment – covered in rainbow of masking tape strips. He also brought light bulbs of various sizes and colors, a glowing skeleton head staff, and what looked like a traffic light. They placed it in front of the barrier, on the audience's side.
Wearing a t-shirt he picked up at a gas station, Deacon started his set by telling the crowd to relax and spread out. “Nothing to see here but a fat man pushing a metal box, so find your personal space and don't push anyone,” he said. Naturally, no one listened, and the crowd swarmed his station. Anyone who wasn't directly in front of him was unable to see him.
Deacon drove the crowd to ecstasy and excess, with everyone in the audience pushing, punching, and perspiring. Though he played a mix of new and old material, somehow it all sounded the same: a jumbled mess of beats and Deacon's stream-of-consciousness declarations touching on topics as divergent as Rod Stewart (“You guys need to hear this sick jam”), technology (“People are cramming hard drives in their heads”) and the demise of humanity (“There is a coming dark age and it's either gonna be at the hands of the tyrants or after the fall of the tyrants”).
The music was almost secondary to Deacon's antics. First he organized a dance-off between a guy wearing a Cookie Monster costume and some other dude for a prize of $25. Then he brought out ever-present local DJ-performer-promoter Kyle Mabson — who Deacon deemed the true embodiment of the spirit of L.A. — and demanded he lead the audience in an interpretive dance. At the end of the show, he made the crowd play London Bridge – you know, the kids game of raising your arms to make an arch – right inside the club, with maybe fifty people forming an arch that extended from the stage to the bar.
Compared to Deacon's extravaganza, opener Juiceboxxx's performance was quite dull. Everything about his music was mediocre. It wouldn't have been so bad if he just kept his mouth shut in between songs; hearing him proudly announce, “I've been spending a lot of fucking time in a basement behind a Jollibee” made me cringe. “I'm making American music for American people, you feel me?” Uh, not at all.
XBXRX's set was enjoyable though. The noise-punk band came on stage wearing jumpers that looked like deflated parachutes over tie dyed leggings and threw cymbols, kicked over drums, and played guitars with teeth.
Critic's Bias: If you're the type of person that is afraid of being called out, then maybe Dan Deacon's live show isn't for you. I am definitely uncomfortable being called out in front of a crowd.
The Crowd: Very, very young. Lots of fifteen-year olds who probably just discovered that you don't actually need to be able to play an instrument to make music. And kids who looked like they were trying to dress like Deacon.
Random Notebook Dump: I remember Deacon came to Bard College my freshman year, and my friends and I went to go see him perform. I know that there were tons of seizure-inducing flashing lights, but that's all I can recall. That pretty much sums up my year-long stint at Bard.