I got my first impression of Dan Deacon when he played 2007 Hideout Block Party, setting up a table of electronic gear and old Casio keyboards and stuff in the middle of the pavement — essentially performing into the midst of an enthusiastic crowd. It all seemed like lots of fun, but as often happens with electronic music artists, I was left wondering just what Deacon had been doing with all of those knobs and levers.
I overcame my skepticism about Deacon’s musicianship when I listened to his two most recent albums, 2009’s Bromst and this year’s America. Both of these records make it clear that Deacon’s a composer of some true sophistication, using the sort of overlapping melodic patterns that are common in Philip Glass’ minimalism but employing them to a different end — pulsing and often anthemic pop music.
As a concert act, Deacon is still a bit of a goofball and a party instigator. When he performed Wednesday (Nov. 7) at Lincoln Hall with his ensemble (two drummers plus keyboardist-guitarist Chester Endersby Gwazda, also one of the opening acts), the music was just as complex as it is on the records. It was still hard to decipher precisely how Deacon was coaxing all of those sounds out of that mound of wires in front of him, but it never felt like a bunch of precorded sounds scrolling on a laptop, which is the unfortunate fate of many electronic artists during concerts.
Deacon got the crowd to do a variety of dances and maneuvers that had the feeling of a hipster game of “Simon Says.” These games included one that involved much of the audience going out on the sidewalk in front of Lincoln Hall while Deacon and his band continued playing. During one song, many of the audience held their smartphones aloft and used Dan Deacon’s app, which picked up the song’s vibrations, triggering the phones to display light in various colors — making the fans part of the light show. The whole concert had an infectious sense of fun.
Gwazda’s opening set was cut short by problems with broken guitar strings. The evening also featured Height with friends (whose rap-rock tired me out after a while) and comedian Alan Resnick, who charmed with a bizarre lecture about creating a virtual version of himself.