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Drinking the Dan Deacon Kool-Aid

Dan Deacon at the Electric Owl, Vancouver, May 7 2015. Kirk Chantraine photo.

Dan Deacon at the Electric Owl, Vancouver, May 7 2015. Kirk Chantraine photo.

Review and Photos – Dan Deacon at the Electric Owl, Vancouver, May 7 2015

– review by Taisuke Tanimura, photos by Kirk Chantraine

Dan Deacon has covered a lot of ground since his commercial debut back in 2007. Although best known for his energetic day-glo neon electronic music, he has also written contemporary classical pieces, created experimental compositions using sine waves and scored the Francis Ford Coppola film Twixt.

Somewhere in there he also founded Wham City, an art and performance collective based in Maryland. Each of his albums has received almost universal acclaim – the review aggregator metacritic.com shows all of his albums getting somewhere between 77 and 82 out of 100, which basically means that everything he’s done so far has been pretty great. His eighth studio album Gliss Riffer was released in February on Domino records, and shows Deacon striking out in a decidedly more pop direction while still retaining his quirky, off-kilter sensibility.

Dan Deacon at the Electric Owl, Vancouver, May 7 2015. Kirk Chantraine photo.

Dan Deacon at the Electric Owl, Vancouver, May 7 2015. Kirk Chantraine photo.

Deacon is just as famous for his live shows as he is for his music. When you buy a ticket to his show you are not signing up just to be a member of the audience – you are expected to participate in a group performance. The Baltimore resident has a showman’s knack for getting people to let loose, using a winning combination of relentless enthusiasm, quick wit and thumping rhythms, and performing at the same level as the crowd rather than on a stage. For his last tour, he developed an app that turned everyone’s phone into a light show that synchronized with the music.

This is a man who doesn’t want to play for you. He wants to play with you. If you’ve never seen him perform, I think of him as a cheery Mike Patton crossed with Andrew W.K. sprinkled with a bit of Dan the Automator with the fashion sense Keith Haring.

Dan Deacon at the Electric Owl, Vancouver, May 7 2015. Kirk Chantraine photo.

Dan Deacon at the Electric Owl, Vancouver, May 7 2015. Kirk Chantraine photo.

Deacon did not disappoint at the Electric Owl Thursday night. After a technical snafu at the beginning (which was masterfully turned into a massive singalong to “Happy Birthday”), there was nothing but one big party to be had. At one point he separated the crowd into halves and picked two volunteers from the audience to do some interpretive dance. People in each half were assigned to copy the movements of the volunteers, turning the venue into a writhing Baraka-esque mass of limbs.

Halfway through the set, he pulled back the curtains that were serving as a backdrop to reveal a guitarist and a drummer which added to the intensity of the performance. I had shown up the venue in a bad mood and with a nagging headache, but the pumped-up crowd, the loud music and the frantic light show snapped me out of my funk. I drank the Dan Deacon Kool-Aid and it was tasty!

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