Monday, August 3, 2009

Show Review: Dan Deacon/Deerhunter/No Age

It seemed illogical and just a tad bemusing on paper. Although Dan Deacon, Deerhunter, and No Age are among the most popular crossover acts to have emerged from the indie scene, their respective styles couldn't be any more disparate. The enigmatic Deacon, who is arguably better known for his showmanship than his musical output at this stage, fuses wordless adenoidal vocals (Philip Glass on Ritalin would not be an exaggeration) with electronic instrumentation; it's dance music absolved of its funky underpinnings. With roots in Brooklyn and Georgia, Deerhunter's imaginatively loping take on psychedelia and relentless touring garnered a huge fanbase throughout 2008. Finally, the ruffians in No Age have embraced the contrarian strains of primeval punk rock, all the while subsuming their classicism in the requisite dollops of noise that are somehow equated with ingenuity in the eclectic waters of 2009. It may be a coldly calculated sound, yet it somehow remains imprinted on the brain -- musical Ubik, if you will.

Initially scheduled as part of the free Pool Parties series at East River State ParkKent Avenue in Williamsburg, yesterday's inclimate weather forced the show to be moved to nearby Brooklyn Bowl on North 11th Street. With a capacity of around 600, the bowling alley (one of only five left in the borough) could not comfortably accommodate the large turnout, fueling the flames of irreverent commenters on the popular BrooklynVegan blog; before long, a second show was hastily added. Despite the initial fracas, the show did not turn into a boondoggle like the final day of the All Points West festival in New Jersey -- indeed, some commenters were referring to the first concert as "the concert of the year" before midnight.

After an opening act, the three headliners performed "round robin" style. For the uninitiated, this uniquely Baltimorian style of performance involves all acts performing on stage at once, switching after every song. It is certainly more egalitarian than the traditional mode of performance (a boon to the musicians), while the format inherently lends itself to a more varied type of show -- one where inter-band collusions are very common. In a highlight of the evening, Dan Deacon spontaneously dueted with Deerhunter's Bradford Cox (a truly genial soul who thanked audience members while waiting in the very long queue).

Lacking much of the usual histrionics, the Deacon songs were by far the weakest of the evening. On his last tour, the rotund Baltimorean was joined by an ensemble of live musicians who added a new level of panache to his frantic compositions. The Brooklyn Bowl set, on the contrary, skewed heavily towards note-by-note recreations of material from his latest album (Bromst); without the net of the backing band, Deacon was forced to attend to his array of clangorous machines instead of indulging in the crowd dancing that he prefers. No Age also yielded towards their album in their pro forma set, but the throng of dancers towards the front of the stage reminded skeptics that there is still room for odd gesticulations at rock and roll shows. Thank heavens.

It was Deerhunter that stole the show for me. Since seeing them well over a year ago, the permanently emaciated Cox (like Joey Ramone and Michael Phelps, he suffers from Marfan syndrome) has matured into a Morrisonian frontman, controlling the audience with a gravitas not seen all that often among today's diffident musicians. While Microcastle and Cryptograms were good albums, hearing those songs in their live iterations only reinforced their preeminence. Truly captivating stuff.

As the show concluded with a Dan Deacon light show and a two-way drone jam between No Age and Deerhunter, I smiled. It certainly wasn't the best show o
f the year, but all three acts had beat the odds with grace.

No comments:

Post a Comment