For Friday night's Neumos crowd, reality became something entirely separate from what we knew it to be. The night's headliner, Canadian electronic wunderkind Dan Deacon, bends the strings that we dangle by enough on his own, but combined with the dystopian shimmer of New York synth rock act Prince Rama and the 21st century American cult fun of Ben O'Brien, not an ounce of the night was at half volume. All three acts worked brilliantly with both aural and visual landscapes, capturing every available attention span from shortest to longest. Looking closely, each of these artists is pushing the envelope of performance art and sonic domination. But from afar, there's so much going on in this rainbow of whimsical joy that you can't help but lose yourself in it. With one of the most stacked tour cards of the year, Dan Deacon and friends made a sold out gig at Neumos a truly once in a lifetime experience to see the world through another dimension.Ben O'Brien... where to even begin with this guy? Hit refresh on his webpage a couple times and you get one of three existential visions of a man in the clouds. You have the option to listen to some tunes, check out some comedy, or join a cult called Earth Universe. His live show isn't too far removed. O'Brien did some music, did some comedy, and asked people to join a cult called Earth Universe. All fairly normal stuff, right? In all honesty, I don't know if there is a better way to open up a Dan Deacon show. For the rapture bound to come later, why not start things off with all preconceived notions of the evening being laid waste? Ben O'Brien did that with flying colors, and you should check him if for nothing else but sincere admiration for the character this dude has cooked up. It's pretty fantastic.
Prince Rama's last full length album was performed as ten different bands in a post apocalyptic future setting. 2012's Top Ten Hits at the End of the World is technically a pop record (see: "Top Ten Hits"), set with the brash and bombastic sounds of the 80s, but it's source material is so alien and futuristic that it bends your perception to its own desires. Taraka and Nimai Larson utilize this same aesthetic in much of their work, not only with music, but also with writing and visual art. The new, the old, and the unknown parallels to our universe all combine to make our own realization what it becomes... all very heady stuff. Luckily for us, in the live setting Prince Rama heavily prioritize the experience above the manifesto, so that even the least suspecting member of the crowd can have a good time. Decked out in neon lightning spandex, spacey synth drums and really shiny guitars, Prince Rama kind of look like Philip K. Dick and Def Leppard supergroup. Plus, they sound and perform amazingly, with Larson jumping down into the crowd to sing along with even the most clueless passerby, and with Nimai dancing and smashing the drums on stage. It's all good fun in a brave new world.
Dan Deacon got quite the boost in global presence last year when he accompanied Arcade Fire on their Reflektor world tour, opening up nearly every single date with a barrage of sound and chaos, all emanating from a one-man setup out of a truly magical looking yellow crate. He started dance pits in crowds of over ten thousand people. He split the sea of people in two two get a dance off going between sides of arenas. Truly, for one man relatively unknown to the crowds he was facing night after night, he did the impossible, especially for a guy who, in the next year, wrote and released an album entirely dedicated to crippling social and individual anxiety. Yes, Dan Deacon is a man of mystery. On stage, he is a powerhouse of extroversion and a force not even to be trifled with by a band on the same bill trying to meet his levels of energy. But yet, behind all the fireworks, a record like this year's Gliss Riffer shows that Deacon is, just like the rest of us, learning where he fits into this crazy thing called life.
It's this backdrop that makes the Gliss Riffer tour for Dan so impossibly awesome. Deacon's dedicated fanbase and new fans alike all join in the same room under the same kaleidoscope of canvas, ready to feel ecstatic, joyful noise emanate through every pore of their bodies. Deacon turns song after song on his new album, all about anxiety and feeling trapped and not knowing what to do, into careening, chaotic dance explosions. In that, he's truly learned how to train the dragon of his fears and make it sometime that feeds the joy on the other side of his heart. Not only for himself, though - this is something that Dan Deacon shares with all of us. This tour is only one of many examples, but tonight's insane, rapturous show was another prime example of how Dan Deacon brings the magic of another world down to earth for all of us to benefit from.
Gliss Riffer is out now on Domino Recordings.
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