Baltimore electronic DJ/impresario/more Dan Deacon has been steadily blowing people’s minds up in the Big Apple, first with Spiderman of the Rings, the critic’s darling of dance party soundtracks, then his Ultimate Reality DVD and tour (which culminated at the prestigious, uptown Whitney Museum). There were his wild live sets, where he played from in front of the stage – not at the front, but in front. He even brought his ‘Baltimore Round-Robin’ tour (QRO Festival & Tour Guide) up the East Coast, where the audience sat in the middle while bands encircled them. But it was at Brooklyn Masonic Temple (QRO venue review) on Thursday, December 11th, where Deacon introduced his most ambitious outing yet: being backed by a fourteen-piece orchestra of percussion and electronics.
However, this was still Dan Deacon, and he had to start things off where he always does: amongst the crowd. With his trusty collection of electronics nailed to a board and laid at the lip of the stage, Deacon stood, pressed against that lip like an over-eager fan, pressed there by his own over-eager fans, as he hunched across his jury-rigged apparatus. Meanwhile, his orchestra were set up on the actual stage, a ring of keyboards, synthesizers, laptops and more, semi-circled around a center of percussive instruments (akin to when the similarly percussion-focused, crazy-time, Mid-Atlantic, many-membered act Man Man played Masonic Temple – QRO review).
Things didn’t begin on quite the right note (Deacon called it a “nightmare”), as the fifteen had some kinks to work out – less in keeping themselves in synch that in managing all the effects that they were utilizing, Deacon even begging the house sound guy not to do anything more to what they were sending him. The ensemble certainly were looking to Deacon, but less and less so as the night went on. And pretty soon the event got really into gear (with yes, some crowd-surfers), or as Deacon put it, “Now we’re slowly realizing it’s a nightmare and we’re turning it into a dream…”
Deacon’s placement among the audience can be rather frustrating for anyone who isn’t squeezed right up next to him (and doubly so for photographers – either you gotta be on stage, like at Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin – QRO recap – or you gotta virtually climb a speaker to get an angle, like yours & others did), and the glitchy beginning didn’t help. But once things got rolling, the energy was electric and infectious as the Masonic Temple danced its heart out (though you gotta wonder what the people sitting in the balcony were thinking – too cool for school, maybe, but also too cool to have any fun…).
Deacon did leave the crowd and get on stage for a middle chunk of his set, joining a few of his friends on laptops as he simmered things down with the higher end of the electronic spectrum, which was delivered more orchestral, thanks to his ensemble. But eventually it was back to stage floor and the fans, where he lit them up to a whole new level. There was Spiderman’s ever-building, ever-pressing, ever-wild “Crystal Cat” – always a stand out at his shows. Then there was Deacon’s crowd organization, nearer the end: first he had everyone cluster under the Masonic Temple’s giant chandelier as they stretched their arms as high as they could. Then he ordered them to slowly lower their hands onto the head of the person in front of them and ‘relieve themselves of their worst secret’ through osmosis. Deacon even had the crowd form a tunnel, side-by-side with up-stretched hands, for people to dance through then add on to (though it never reached the full circle Deacon hoped for).
Dan Deacon playing "Crystal Cat" live at Brooklyn Masonic Temple in Brooklyn, NY on December 11th, 2008:
From his start as a one-man electronic artist in humble Baltimore, Dan Deacon has grown & grown. In a way, adding new members is only logical, even past due: This was the first ‘Secret Society’ show at Masonic Temple since the biggest event of CMJ was held there, Broken Social Scene (QRO photos) & Land of Talk (QRO photos). Deacon’s show wasn’t just covered by the usual NYC indie-media types (though any Brooklyn Vegan coverage seemed curiously absent…), but even by MTV and The New York Times (though The Grey Lady, of course, tried to make it sound all artsy-fartsy…). Even so, there’s not many artists out there who can increase their band size 1400% and get away with it – luckily, Dan Deacon can, and did.