285 Kent Ave.
Saturday, May 21
Better than: The sauna at the Greenpoint YMCA.
It’s no longer cold as shit out in New York. But for all the disgruntled tweeting about winter weather that ensued these past few months, one thing people will probably miss is the ability to attend a musical performance at a poorly ventilated D.I.Y. space and not feel like they’re standing inside someone’s mouth. Or, as Dan Deacon put it at 285 Kent on Saturday, “this must be what it’s like to be inside of a… nevermind.” Try as Dan did to combat the cramped humidity via team-building activities, this sense of claustrophobia permeated the whole performance, and it eventually came to a head in the form a disturbing fan freak-out.
The all-ages crowd was pumped–like, crush-up-a-bunch-of-Smarties-and-snort-them pumped–from the get-go. Dan Deacon fans love Dan Deacon, and who can blame them? But sometimes they threaten to love him a little too hard, like when my cat loved his toy mouse straight to its untimely grave. “We gotta get two strong-ass pairs of arms up here real quick,” Dan implored as he was almost completely swallowed up by the crowd. “It’s gonna get a lot worse up here.” The muscle was found, and it kept the crowd from upending his table and skull-topped speaker tower for the rest of the show.
As Dan’s arty, glitchy brand of synth-laden electro blared, he sang through a processor that made him sound like an evil elf. The only people who could really see him were those pressed up against his equipment table and those who took refuge on the empty stage. By the end of the second song, the stage was filled with photographers (who weren’t using their flashes; “it distracts the fuck out of me,” he told the camera-enabled) and those who wanted slightly more room to dance.
Dancing is crucial at a Dan Deacon show, especially during their trademark dance contests. The rules are simple: one must be silly as fuck, and one must choose the next dancer when one is finished dancing. Perhaps due to the difficulty of maintaining a circular opening in such a crowded space, the dance contest seemed shorter than usual. Everyone seemed in good spirits, though; a few moist couples could be seen making out, and when one guy fell, three people helped him up.
For the next group activity, Deacon parted the crowd like the Red Sea, then had people come from both ends of the room and meet in the middle to dance-battle it up. “I love the movie Big,” he explained, “We gotta do it. That movie’s never been more important in our society than now. You know the movie Face/Off? It’s 2011. Think about it.” Well OK, then!
It was shortly after this that things went off-kilter. I caught a scuffle out of the corner of my eye, then spied a guy on his back in the rear corner of the stage screaming bloody murder. “He’s on acid, yo, fuck that guy,” someone exclaimed. “I think he might need an ambulance,” said someone else. Ever the caring performer, Dan stopped the music, fought through the crowd and helped the guy to the green room. “I’m sorry, Dan,” the young man cried. “Dan, I’m sorry.” As it turned out, he was not on any drugs, but afflicted with Asperger’s, and sometimes got into fights without really meaning to. Sensing a change in energy, Dan kicked everyone off the stage, then gave everyone a ten-minute intermission to cool the fuck off.
Things were decidedly calmer after that. “Some dark shit went down and it’s sticking in my brain,” Dan noted, before having us put our hands on our neighbor’s heads and think about things we’d done that we regretted, then raise our hands and release that regret into the air–a surprisingly effective mojo-cleansing technique. By the time he finished up with the relentlessly sparkly “Crystal Cat,” everything once again seemed OK. The power Dan Deacon holds over a crowd is both awesome and a little bit scary to behold; may he always remain on the side of the light.
Critical bias: Debbie and I let Dan sleep in our bed when he was locked out of his room during the MtyMx festival in Monterrey. (We were getting a new room that night.) Knowing how angelic he looks while deep in slumber has given us an excess of empathy for the man.
Overheard: “My shit is not functioning properly because of the moisture.”
Random notebook dump: “What am I standing on? Should I be standing on this?”