An Interactive Concert with Dan Deacon is Near Contained Chaos
Dan Deacon decided to flashback to the good ol’ days of 2007, back when his studio was his bedroom. The days he spent hours alone recording his first popular record, “Spiderman of the Rings,” with nothing but his laptop and anti-corporate thoughts creating sounds of kitchen sink cacophony. He admits now that it was a directionless time in his life as he lived day by day; coping with the past, a stranger to the future. While undeniably successful, “Spiderman of the Rings” was pretty much pure sugar-water party music that drew crowds of kids on ecstasy. But the hype over the album did two things: it affirmed that the quality of his music wasn’t some self-centered fallacy, and it gave him direction. Which is why three albums, several tours, and a mass of achievements later, he’ll be in Pittsburgh at Mr. Smalls (400 Lincoln Ave, Millvale, Pennsylvania 15209) on April 9 as part of his US tour to lead an interactive concert for his new album, “Gliss Riffer.”
“Gliss Riffer” is similar to “Spiderman of the Rings” in that they’re both completely self-produced with a euphoric intention and ecstatic energy. What’s different in “Gliss Riffer” is an uncontained euphoria willing to go places his previous work hasn’t. It’s a clarity and complexity that only comes with self-realization, a yearning to temper life’s nagging anxieties, with the ability to put oneself in another place: real, imaginary, or both.
With new-found inspiration, Deacon sequestered himself into his studio to develop an album from sketches and songs he started in the back of a van on the European leg of his American tour. However, his plan took a turn when he was invited to tour with Arcade Fire. Rather than lose momentum, he decided to continue recording on the road, mixing in the green room before sound checks and in the hotel room after the shows. On days off, he’d find a studio, but if there wasn’t one, he’d seal the vents of a hotel bathroom with towels and use bedding material to create a control room. It would seem that nontraditional recording spaces suit Deacon best, for the results of his new album were beyond well-received.
“Glass Riffer” is Deacon’s first album to focus on his vocal chords, a new appreciation he found after suffering from laryngitis. The raw vocal quality in the album alludes to the idea that the voice is perishable; an instrument with an expiration date. “Feel the Lightning” is the first track on the album, filmed with poly-rhythmic textures one would expect, but never fail to impress. The singing is mechanical and distorted; even the female voice in the chorus is Deacon’s, as he experiments with vari-speed recording techniques.
Deacon’s projects even expand beyond music and into the video realm. The “Feel the Lightning” music video is a bizarre enactment of couches coming to life, dancing, humping, and wrecking stuff, followed by three dancers with painted faces wearing geometric onesies. It’s a mix of the ordinary and the absurd, but more simply, a glimpse into Dan Deacon’s very strange mind.
His other videos are featured on Adult Swim. A special March episode of “Off the Air,” an American anthology TV series for Adult Swim, united nine of their favorite animators to each animate a section of the “Gliss Riffer” track, “When I was Done Dying.” The result (below) was entrancing. Even though it was aired during late hours when viewers were probably far from sober, there’s honestly not a more appropriate time to watch it.
In 2012, Deacon created an official iTunes/Google Play interactive concert app that can be used without WiFi or cellular data. The idea is that once the app is activated, it turns your phone into a synchronized light and sound instrument that varies on your location in the venue. The screen becomes a light show, the speaker an instrument, and the L.E.D a strobe light. If enough of the crowd participates, the result is a light and sound spectacle – just another way that Deacon includes the audience. Make sure to download the app before the show!
Don’t think this is the kind of concert where you’ll just show up with your ticket, fade into a fuzzy crowd of hipsters’ hyped up elbows, while the man on stage does all the performing. No, Dan Deacon won’t allow such nonsense. Often on the floor with the audience, he encourages solo dance circles or gets the crowd moving in unison. When he makes the call, be prepared to respond. Watch footage of a 2012 interactive concert to see the expected, or rather, the unexpected (fast forward 10 minutes). A live, interactive show is often unpredictable; as seen in the video, there were technical difficulties and inadequate dancers were publicly shamed. Deacon is the ringleader of a show that provokes the borderline of chaos and ‘gone wrong,’ yet fans always leave feeling downright stoked.
Also featured at the show will be Prince Rama, a psychedelic band of two sisters from Brooklyn, and Ben O’Brien, a spiritual guru and cult leader who was enlightened while sitting on the toilet reading a bottle of Dr. Bronners. Both from Baltimore, Maryland, Deacon and O’Brien are members of Wham City Comedy, an improv group delighted to be called “scary” by Huffington Post, and a subgroup of Wham City arts and music collective (or Church of Satan).
General admission tickets to Dan Deacon’s show at Mr. Smalls are $15 in advance and $17 at the door. Doors open at 7PM, show starts at 8PM, and all ages are welcome. We’re also giving away two free tickets–enter for a chance to win them below!