Dan Deacon - The Scala, London 26/09/12
I am not immensely fond of the Scala as a venue. It's too cramped, there are too many different levels and something about it doesn't feel quite right. I was not, however, going to let my mild dislike of the place put me off seeing Dan Deacon, who's had an excellent year with the release of America.
First on stage, in support, were Super Pattern. I struggled with the group; while they had an interesting sound there was a certain something lacking. The vocals, while not awful, weren't quite up to par - it wasn't out-of-tune warbling but real enthusiasm and character was missing. The vocals were a huge part of their sound and the somewhat flat performance given here unfortunately damned a otherwise promising band into mediocrity.
Dent May, on the other hand, was an excellent performer. For those not accustomed to his music he comes across as a slightly more electro-pop Pavement. His discography is filled with solid, if not amazing, material but his main strength as a live performer comes with how tight and well drilled his band are. They hardly missed a beat throughout their set, and managed to perform with a enthusiasm and energy that was greatly heartening. Ultimately for all the flashy and exciting things a band can do sometimes real quality is found in sheer competency. It was obvious that the rest of the audience was equally positive about Dent, I heard excited mutterings as he left and the venue was suddenly in very good spirits.
The set up for Dan Deacon then began in a frenzy. A space was cleared, by the man himself, at the front of the audience. Two drum kits were brought to the centre of the stage and a desk full of electronic devices was placed on the floor amongst the crowd. Crazy lights and gadgets were left precariously dangling over the audience. In no time at all, Dan Deacon stepped down to his desk to address the assembled crowd. This was perhaps the longest, and most entertaining pre-gig amble I have ever heard. Those who have seen Dan Deacon perform before will know how oddly special he is, and as soon as he had everybody crouching on the floor (pointing at those who refused to join in) I knew this was going to be a show to remember.
To be honest, I hardly remember what was played at the gig. The music ceased to matter. An excellent version of 'Build Voice' was played at one time, I'm pretty sure, but Dan Deacon's game plan seemed, at times, to be about everything but the music. Dance competitions were organised, captains were chosen to lead us in synchronised dancing, a smart phone app was used to turn the audience into a light show and, best of all, we were required to form a human tunnel through the venue and outside (I think it went outside, I was part of the tunnel that was in a corridor).
I think Deacon understands the limitations of what he can do as a live performer. Due to the electronic nature of his music he's going to struggle to put on a real performance without resorting to these crazy antics. It's remarkable, therefore, that he's managed to make his gigs quite as amazing as they are. I suppose, if you wanted to, you could stand at the back, refuse to get involved and have a lovely time listening to the great music. But for those that want a real experience Dan Deacon provides an excellent show that has to be seen.