Dan Deacon is one of the most frustrating musicians out right now. This isn't because he is not talented, on the contrary I think he has both the ability and potential to release a great album. But he decides to produce music that is so unnecessarily cluttered that it becomes unlistenable. He manages to cram so many instruments and sounds into each beat that if he tried to place another *zip* or *ding* into the song your stereo would blow up.
So why did I got to his show? The first is because the show was advertised as "Dan Deacon + 13 Piece Ensemble." I thought it would be cool to see how this many musicians would pull off all of the layered sounds from the album. The second is because of how many people have claimed he is "amazing" live. Unbelievable! He sets up his equipment in the crowd and gets everyone riled up! But as the show went on I realized these are the two fundamental reasons why I don't like Dan Deacon.
So I made the weekday trek to the Troubadour to see if it was worth the hype. This is what I got:
I'm not going to shit on Dan because he's old and fat and bald. Only the second he can control. But there's another problem here. Dan is approaching his 30s and he appeals to young teens that shop at Urban Outfitters. I think this says a lot. Back to the show for a second.
After Futures Islands played their excellent opening set, Dan and co proceeded to set up their equipment and sound check. Dan was pretty aggressive when setting up, demanding things from his band mates, and they didn't seem too pleased. They didn't appreciate being told what to do, but of course were polite and abided.
Now on to his 13 piece ensemble. There was a wind instrumentalist, who played flute and saxophone, but you could not hear him at all. Then there were the 3 drummers, while talented, at least 1 was unnecessary (many times they were playing the same beat over each other). There were 2 bass players, I have no idea why. And the 3 xylophone/glockenspiel players were so mixed with each other that you could barely make out the melodies.
Let's take an abridged version of this band, down to 5, and I doubt anyone would have noticed the difference. In fact I would argue that the music would have sounded better. The same way that I would argue that the music on his albums would sound better if there was less going on.
Dan set up his stage in the middle of the crowd as usual. Throughout the show he did his typical gimmicks to get the crowd into the show, including pushing people to dance and cracking jokes here and there. So he got the teenage crowd pretty riled up, and they began to "pogo," a term coined in the 70s describing when young teens jump up and down incessantly like a pogo stick.
This pogoing got pretty aggressive to the point where I would almost call it a youthful hipster indie mash pit. Imagine that for a second. The pushing then got so intense that Dan had to say something in between songs. "Stop pushing, this is my life's work up here and if you keep pushing you're going to destroy it. I'll stop the show. This isn't a Pearl Jam or Rancid concert." I thought that that was really funny at the time, but the next day I thought about it more and realized how ridiculous this statement is.
If Dan is going to write music that inherently gets you pumped up, and then verbally encourage you to dance and go crazy during the show, then he can't complain that people are going to wreck his equipment because he sets it up in the middle of the crowd. There's a reason there is a stage, and he needs to make a decision. Either play softer shit or set your stuff up where you are supposed to.
Moreover, he said this in a joking fashion, but I sensed some seriousness to it. He seems fed up, this gimmick is getting old. He is getting old. He's been touring for weeks and doing this for years and he's had enough.
Want to know what I think? Dan Deacon needs to come down to earth and use his musical ability, which as I said I think is exceptional, to release a listenable album. And he needs to play his instruements where is is supposed to--on the stage. He can't keep this up forever. You can see through this shit, live or not, and all these kids will someday too when they begin to listen to things that they actually like rather than what others tell them is "cool."
My friend from work Josh Frankfort, who is a big fan of Bromst, asked me the next day what I thought of the show. I said, "I would have had a good time if I was 16 and I was drunk." Emphasis needed on the 'and.'