LIVE REVIEW: Dan Deacon @ The Glass House, Pomona, CA

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Dan Deacon – Photo by Callie Ryan

About an hour from Los Angeles is Pomona, well known for car dealerships and a strip of perfectly creepy looking antique shops with pastel pink and green exteriors, but there was something very magical in the air the night Dan Deacon stopped by for a one-off show in the middle of his stint supporting Arcade Fire’s massive arena tour. He had specifically taken the night off for a visit to The Glass House, a much celebrated all-ages venue located on a street that seems like something out of a ghost town, with the only exception being the pumped up high school cool cats congregating outside, resting on telephone poles, and performing tricks on their skateboards. However unassuming, by the night’s end my friends and I had decided the show was one of the best we had experienced in a very long time, or possibly in forever.

The show itself seemed to have around seventy people there, which in the large space of the venue created a dynamic for a comfortable, positive, and ridiculously friendly vibe. It seemed as though both the audience and Deacon were happy to be playing in a more intimate setting where, as he put it, “there were no chairs or bleachers.” After all, Deacon is known to put on shows that include interactive icebreaker type games involving his audience.

Opening up for Deacon were local indie rockers Jetpacks and Laserguns. Their stage set up included homemade, giant triangular neon signs and monitors with vertical lines which reacted to different sonic elements in the songs. The band played a plethora of new age electronic equipment, in addition to good ol’ guitar, drums, and bass. Though their sound is decidedly modern, their affinity for eighties sounds cropped up with a buoyant energy through the set – high frequency swirling noises, bass lines that fit perfectly in the groove of the drums, and squealing , buzzing synths that took on the tone of the laser beams referenced in the band’s moniker. Too often, a heavy reliance on these elements can make a band’s output seem distanced or sterile, but Jetpacks and Laserguns’ infectious enthusiasm and handmade crafting of visual elements make it clear that so much human love and energy have been put into this specific creative project.

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Jetpacks and Laserguns – Photo by Callie Ryan

Minutes after Jetpacks and Laserguns exited the stage, Dan Deacon began setting up his table of neon-tape-covered equipment in the middle of the floor – yes, the middle of the floor, not the stage! It was clear from the beginning of Deacon’s set that he is not only a musician, but also something of a comedian, a sort of goofily unhinged summer camp counselor bursting with ideas for wacky, feel-good social experiments in which everyone is encouraged to participate. He began the show with a rant about the future, aliens, and dualism, and after a mind-blowing first song, he ordered the audience to gather on either side of the room, wait until the drum and bass drop, and then race back to the middle in order to high- five as many people as possible. Quirky activities like these have long been built into Deacon’s sets as a means of disrupting typically passive audiences, and its nearly impossible not to smile and play along.

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Dan Deacon – Photo by Callie Ryan

My vantage point directly in front of Dan Deacon provided optimal grooving-out space (I put in a good hour of intense dancing, or rather primal jumping movements) and also allowed me to see how intricate Deacon’s actions are when layering his complex digital soundscapes. He covers all of his gear in striped neon pink, green, yellow, and blue tape, creating a space where even electronic music geeks such as myself would not be distracted by the kind of equipment he was using. Every time he turned a knob, or pressed a new button on his “table of mysteries,” sounds would blast out of the speakers that had so much texture and were so tangible, it felt as though I could touch them and put them in my pocket to take home.

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Dan Deacon – Photo by Callie Ryan

Most of the set relied on on songs from America, released in 2012 on Domino Records.  However, Deacon performed so much noise improvisation throughout his set, that each song he played felt stimulating, new, and incredibly special. For instance, during his last song, in order to create a specific distorted and crunchy noise, he scraped the top of his microphone on the giant speakers behind him; it is creative flourishes such as these that make Deacon’s music so unique, moving, and memorable. Part of what his work hinges on is his incredible abilities as a curator of interesting sounds. But Deacon doesn’t rest on those laurels – instead, he spends the entirety of his shows creating a community, no small task in just a few short hours. But by the end of the night all seventy of the newly sweaty and blissed out audience members felt a little more familiar with one another as a result of Deacon’s ability to do so. It’s no wonder that Arcade Fire have enlisted him to help inspire party-like atmospheres in clubs ten times the size of The Glass House, and he’s certainly risen to that challenge. You can check out his website for upcoming dates.

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