Hardcore for Nerds: Dan Deacon - 'Crystal Cat'
Arpeggi, A Music Blog - post on Spiderman of the Rings
Dan Deacon on eMusic - Spiderman of the Rings and Acorn Master EP
"I don't usually play with my back to the crowd
but the last time I played in, uh, Dublin, I got the shit beaten out of me..."
Man, this was some gig. More of an experience, really. So many good points it would be impossible to list them all here, so I'll just mention a few important things.
First of all, Dan Deacon eschews the use of a stage, instead setting up his table of electronic stuff literally on the dancefloor. Its not like it hasn't been done before - but its done with a particular purpose in mind. The only lights he uses are a small wall-lamp kind of bulb wrapped in a piece of torn red gel, and a bare 100-watt ordinary bulb.(Those and a glowing plastic skull, but let's not get ahead of ourselves here). This is a bit pretentious, but what the whole scene brought to mind was the painting An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump:
Of course, we weren't cruelly asphyxiating a small bird, but instead celebrating our own kind of enlightenment. It was the harsh sodium lighting effect of the single bare bulb which brought the image to mind originally (alternating with the Red October gloom of the other bulb), but another similarity becomes apparent now. At about the same height as the air pump there was, on Dan Deacon's set-up, a glowing green plastic skull which flashed on and off in a kinda strobe-y way. There's a song on his album about it - 'Trippy Green Skull'. Apparently it's a feature of his shows; and it takes on a sort of totemic aspect, as it's the only thing most people can see of the 'stage'. I was only three, maybe four people back but the most I saw of the man himself during most of his set was a few glimpses of his bearded, bespectacled face in the strobe light. Not that it really mattered, because the whole thing was this insane circle-of-firelight rave experience.(Or alternately, a crazy and probably infamous dance circle dripping with Fight Club references... but I'm allowed to talk about it; "Rule 3 - No cowards!")
It might be pointed out that some of the audience were able to get up on what was originally the stage, i.e. above Dan Deacon (and in front of him... I can draw you a diagram if you want). The view must have been pretty good up there... one of my friends somehow ended up in front of the bouncers and was able to high five Deacon from above, so kudos to you. However, down in the crush was pretty cool too.
As for the music, it was just as good as expected. 'Crystal Cat' was amazing in that setting, as was 'Okie Doke' - there's a song that gets you moving! He played 'Jimmy Roche', the album closer, early on (I think) which is a personal favourite of mine. "Gorgously complex composition that keeps slipping under itself, and all that" as a very good friend of mine describes it - he actually knows, unlike me, about music and stuff so I'll have to defer to him on that and on what is the real masterpiece on the album, the "the all-encompassing complexity of the perfect creation" known as 'Wham City':
It's epic, it's fantastic and the lyrics don't make much sense; but it's really the epitome of Dan Deacon's work in relation to Spiderman of the Rings and as an electro-acoustic composer (whatever the hell that is). This, and 'Crystal Cat', show just how he combines weird-ass techno complexity with catchy pop simplicity. The lyric sheet at the top of the post was handed out to the audience so we could all sing along, which just goes to show what a nice guy Dan Deacon is, too.