Concert Review: Dan Deacon at Rough Trade

Dan Deacon is more than just your average musician. Seeing him live is an experience.

A few days ago I caught just 30 minutes of Dan’s set at Rough Trade, the year-old record store in Williamsburg that proves that hipsters alone are enough to keep vinyl alive. This was my second time seeing him and it lived up to every expectation I had after the first time.

Dan is big on crowd interaction, something I love. He got on stage and told a hilarious story about his hat, joking afterward that his comedy album is coming out soon. But let me tell you this – if Dan Deacon made a comedy album, I would listen to it. The man is effortlessly charismatic, quirky, and funny.

When the music started, I had to look around and wonder that this is the stuff New York-based sitcoms are made of. You know, where a character goes to see some kind of funky art exhibit and everyone around him is enthralled, yet the exhibit is so ridiculously terrible that he can’t understand what the big deal is. I don’t think Dan’s music is ridiculously terrible at all, but I can certainly see an outside observer being totally confused by it. Each song is so bizarre and spacey and Dan uses voice distortion equipment for his vocals, that the whole thing is just an odd spectacle to watch.

Dan’s performances are always interactive. At each show he asks the crowd to form a giant circle, and chooses 2 people to dance in the middle (he calls this a dance contest though there really isn’t a contest element to it). After a few seconds, each person is to step out and tap someone else to go in. This works for awhile, but then the entire crowd ends up getting into it and it results in an all out, arms-flailing, joyous dance party. Need proof? Watch:

It’s weird and unexpected yet totally exciting. And when he was giving us all the info on how the “dance contest” would work, he laid out some ground rules, one of which should be everyone’s new life mantra:

“Rule number 1: be sassy as fuck.”

Wise words. Take them with you forever.

He also split us into 2 teams and assigned us a leader whose dance moves we had to copy for an entire song. He has a Dan Deacon app, which he asks everyone to run at the same time, and the music then comes from the phones instead of from him (he didn’t do this during the 30 minutes I was there, but I saw it at my first show of his so I assume it happened after I left).

I probably made this whole show sound really weird, and it is. But the man is – no exaggeration – one of the greatest entertainers I’ve ever seen and I was really sad to leave after just 30 minutes (I had done a poor job of scheduling my evening). But I would absolutely go check out this crazy, hipster dance-fest for a 3rd time.


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