Live Shots: Dan Deacon at New Parish


You go to Dan Deacon in a bad mood – a no-good-reason sort of bad mood, where you’ve been sleeping a lot just to turn it off. (Works for a while, until the stress dreams start.) And even though you’d seen this guy a few times before, you have doubts about the show. Do you really enjoy the music, the high-pitched, manic indie electronics with screeching chipmunk vocals over it? Has he progressed enough as an artist to make a return worthwhile, or enough to brave the crush of an amped up, teenage and hyper crowd?

And once inside the New Parish, Deacon’s fan base seems even younger than last time. There are even old stone-faces seated in comfy chairs along the balcony, obvious school-night-in-Oakland chaperones for the giddy kids below. Peter O’Connell — one of the openers along with locals Chasms and Nero’s Day at Disneyland — plays off this crowd, asking and answering, “You know what I hate?” “Parents.”

A lovably buffoonish, intentionally bad comedian who comes to the stage pre-doused with sweat and proceeds to spill pocket change at every opportunity, O’Connell hails from Deacon’s Wham City performer collective, and shares the inept genius DIY-crap aesthetic. As with the late night oeuvre of Tim and Eric, there’s a silly, winking method to the mindlessness that appeals alternately to both the perma-stoned and a simple pre-pube/acid sense of cartoonish fun. 

To stand outside, it’s easy to dismiss much of what’s going on as gimmicky. (Or to look down from above, and think somebody needs to have that D.A.R.E. talk when they get home.) Deacon, a grizzly hipster geek king of a man, performs down in the crowd, an array of multicolored controllers and keys set up on a folding table. At one side is a precariously rigged tower of brilliant strobes capped by a neon green skull, lights that don’t seem to just accompany the music but race it to a more spastic tempo (a one-two punch that knocks every concrete thought out of your head.)

Sometimes these lights are all that can be made out, as the crowd, in full on mob mode crushes closer. “I can see this is going to be one of those shows,” Deacon says, narrowly avoiding being crushed between the stage and his equipment, another night of hurt legs and resorting to performing on the other side, equipment turned upside down, until security shows up to give him some space.  

There’s not much room around him, and nowhere for a jaded observer to stand. Deacon — more happy cult leader than the pious religious figure that his name and the location suggests — lays out the performance with interactive elements: contests and interpretive dance numbers led by audience members (a couple of costumed gnomes, tonight,) telepathic renditions of “Happy Birthday,” multiple requests to “take a knee for a sec.”

It’s basically peer pressure. Give in and before you know it you’ve crawled/danced through a human tunnel — stretching out the door, through the patio, back across the floor and upstairs to the balcony — and come out the other end, where you’re holding hands in the air with a red-headed woman you’ve never seen before as the two of you giggle like school children. An old, forgotten feeling, and refreshingly better than sleeping.