REVIEW: Dan Deacon at the Metro

I went down to Chicago this weekend and saw experimental electronic wizard Dan Deacon at the Metro on Saturday night. I got into him during college as I explored the weirder side of indie music on Spotify; his cartoonish, fantastical sound is ever-so intriguing. Originally I had planned to see him in 2020 in Madison but when his rescheduled tour did not include a Madison date, then Chicago it was. Deacon’s first opener was Patrick McMinn, a multimedia artist and sound designer whose set entailed playing trumpet against dense electronic soundscapes. His second opener was Alex Silva, an experimental pop artist and composer.

Dan Deacon is from Baltimore. He has a college degree in electro-acoustic and computer music composition, although growing up he played in many different bands ranging from ska to grindcore to Americana. His first full-length album was 2007’s “Spiderman of the Rings” where he introduced his trademark high-pitched vocal manipulations and whimsically energetic approach to pop music. He’d go on to release studio albums “Bromst”, “America”, “Gliss Riffer” and “Mystic Familiar”, the last of which came out in January 2020. Many of his songs last up to six or seven minutes, start out quiet but gradually build into explosions, and lyrically touch on existential topics such as collective consciousness. He’s also done contemporary classical music as well as film scoring; many films he’s written soundtracks for are either experimental or are documentaries. One of his most notable is that of Francis Ford Coppola’s 2011 horror film “Twixt” plus he’s scored three films released this year (“Strawberry Mansion”, “All Light, Everywhere” and “Ascension”).

The show was a spectacle for sure. Deacon came on stage and told us a story where right before the show he started thinking about getting attacked by Dracula, so that became a recurring joke throughout his banter. Crowd participation and interaction is a core component of his shows; twice he divided the audience into two and pointed out people to lead their halves with goofy dance moves as he played a song. It’s clear that inserting a comedic element reflects his love for entertaining crowds in a multi-faceted way. He played with just his electronic setup, singing over each track while gesturing his hands in front of his face elaborately like he’s excitedly telling a story. The light displays were wicked-fast and vivid, appropriate for the playful nature of his music. As far as his setlist went, he played a handful of tunes from “Mystic Familiar” and “Gliss Riffer” plus a couple from “Bromst” and “Spiderman.” One profound moment was upon introducing the song “Snookered” he had everyone close their eyes and think of someone they miss. He closed with “Feel the Lightning” and encouraged everyone to jump as high as they could.

Seeing Dan Deacon is certainly a unique experience. His music speaks to love, imagination, and collectivism; what he has to say both in his songs and outside of them is indicative of his beliefs that everything is connected and that we are here for a beautiful reason. I’m sure he’s a hoot of a guy to hang out with.

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