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Review: Dan Deacon

Dan Deacon show review, Dan Deacon live, Crescent Ballroom

All photos by Elizabeth Bayer

So last night was quite the aural adventure. I started off at Phoenix Symphony Hall with Samuel Barber‘s School for Scandal and Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major conducted by Tito Muñoz with charismatic Benjamin Hochman at the piano. School for Scandal was fun, per usual. This was my first time hearing the concerto and it turned out to be a great pairing. I’m in no place to critique Ravel, so here is a link to a recording. For those of you who are familiar with Rhapsody in Blue (it was on Fantasia 2000), imagine that only slightly more romanticized with a baroque twist. It’s fun, I promise.

Dan Deacon reviewOk, the show started at 7:30 P.M., and now it’s intermission. Dan Deacon and his plethora of musicians go on at 8:30 P.M.. I race from Symphony Hall over to the Crescent Ballroom. In heels. Alone on the very empty streets of downtown Phoenix. I’m dedicated.

The programing at the Phoenix Symphony was good. It was ok. The programing at the Crescent blew my mind.

The show started with comedian/tech wizard (put that in any order you want) Alan Resnick and his presentation on immortality via the use of an avatar with AI… pardon me, RI (real intelligence). Nerd comedy at its finest. And like most comedy, it’s funny because it’s based on truth. Our online personas are such an important extension of ourselves that we already have cyborg anthropologists.

After Resnick, Chester Endersby Gwazda took the stage, a duo if you count the people, and a trio if you count the electronics used to fill their sound. I would see Chester Endersby Gwazda again any day. And I’m sure equal kudos are due to both the band and the Crescent sound guy – this is the first loud, in-your-face show where I felt that the sound spitting from the speakers actually reflected how the band wanted to sound.

Height with Friends came next with a weird (in a really, really good way) sound somewhere between Cake and the Beastie Boys. Frontman Height openly stated that their brand of rap falls into “that white-rap, bubblegum category,” but doesn’t keep the back-up vocalist/tambourine-slayer/Moog-T-shirt-wearing guy from rocking his guts out with every tune. And all of that was just a warm-up for the Deacon ensemble.

Part badass noise-producing machine, part aerobics instructor, part tamer of overzealous under-age throngs, and part inducer of fear in all Crescent Ballroom staff, the Dean Deacon ensemble is a multitude of forces to be reckoned with. I’ve seen Deacon once before, about a year ago at LPR in New York. The show was great. It involved audience participation, plastic children’s musical instruments, an assortment of percussion equipment, soda bottles, massive live processing, and fun had by all. What I hope you consider to be “typical composer stuff.”

Deacon has upped the ante with fantastical video (which I can only assume is manipulated live), the ability to woo the audience into forming a human bridge (think of the tunnel made by kids at the end of a soccer game) that exited the venue and wove back in, and to inspire fans to not only crowd surf while the music throbbed, but to continue long after the music stopped. One song’s performance required an app (available on iPhone and Android). House lights were extinguished, phone screens changed colors and camera flashes strobed in unison. I loved watching the faces of Crescent staff (aka crowd control). Some of them tried so hard to participate but were forced away by an appropriately rowdy crowd.

I’ll grab a ticket the next time Dan Deacon and friends are in town, and after that show and that crowd response, I know they’re coming back.

Dan Deacon review

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