Gig review: Dan Deacon Ensemble, John Maus, Keystone Festival Bar, 11/1/12

Dan Deacon

Two opposite ends of the emotion spectrum were showcased tonight; pure agony in the passionate actions of John Maus, and sheer ecstasy with the buoyant Dan Deacon Ensemble.

Though Maus’ music is ingeniously beguiling synth on record, live he is a beast of another nature. With nothing but a microphone in his hand, the cord wrapped loosely around his fist, he stalked the stage ferociously. As sweat began to darken his shirt, he began pounding his head and chest with a restrained aggression that could’ve been over-excitement or anger, we could never be sure. The songs came with no banter or breaks between, with tracks like Quantum Leap, Believer and Keep Pushing On turning into echoing, pounding anthems punctuated by Maus’ violent shouts. He barely sang, and when he did his voice was steeped in the reverberations of the pre-recorded tracks. Yet it was magnificent.

By contrast, the Dan Deacon Ensemble were all about the love. From the moment Deacon
commanded us to our knees to point and blow kisses at those who didn’t comply, we knew this wasn’t going to be a ‘just nod your head’ kind of dance show. Every song sounded fiercer and more throbbing live, especially tunes like Red F and Get Older. The glitches and bleeps made us feel like we were living inside a Nintendo, meanwhile Deacon was intent on making us all friends. By the time he’d made us all create a never-ending human tunnel that snaked around the entire bar, the conviviality was intoxicating. Whether it was the impromptu dance-off between audience members or the call for the crowd to part so people could race up and down the venue dancing, there was a feeling of such communal joy, that even when trampled underfoot, you couldn’t help but grin.

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