Don’t Call Dan Deacon An ‘Electronic’ Musician Anymore

By Matt Harper

Tomorrow is a big day for Baltimore “electronic” musician Dan Deacon. Please take note: I’m putting “electronic” in quotes because after tomorrow — when Dan takes the stage of the Brooklyn Masonic Temple with a full 14-piece ensemble — he can no longer be called an electronic musician … which is the point of the whole thing, I suppose.

My co-worker and I got the opportunity to drive to Baltimore this week to check out Dan and his 14-piece entourage practice for the very first time for their upcoming show. So after two speeding tickets and a belly full of Waffle House, we made it to the practice space where Deacon would realize his vision of translating his pulsing, addictively danceable beats into live instrumentation.

(More from the Dan Deacon rehearsal, after the jump!)


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I was skeptical at first. I’ve been to a few Dan Deacon shows, and part of the thrill of seeing him perform is that he doesn’t just sit there austerely surveying his crowd from the stage. Instead, he chooses to perform his complex electronic sets from within the teeming crowd, with waves of people clustering and dancing around him. But when we sat down together, he assured us that he wasn’t about to trade in his effects pedal for a conducting baton. Dan will still be there performing with his infamous table of electronic mixers and modifiers … he’ll just have 14 additional musicians to round out the sound and make it more complex.

So as my co-producer and I arrived at the Baltimore loft that would serve as the launching pad for this experiment in electronic vs. traditional instrumentation, we were pleasantly surprised to see that the frenetic energy and danceability of Dan’s music was not lost in its translation to an ensemble band. In fact, I was impressed by how much richer and more dense the music sounded now that it was coming from 14 different sources (15 if you include Dan, who was still doing his own thing while simultaneously directing his ad hoc orchestra).

Of course, the rehearsal wasn’t perfect. There were quite a few moments when they had to work out division of parts on the spot or had to take a moment to re-evaluate a part that just couldn’t be played by human hands. But as Dan pointed out, this was the first time that the ensemble had ever assembled in their completed form (many were meeting for the first time that day), so, of course, there were kinks to work out. And if nothing else, music should be about experimentation and not being afraid to try new things.

As Dan told us during one of the rehearsal breaks, this is the direction he has taken with his upcoming album Bromst — so while this may be the first time we got to see Dan with his ensemble band, I’m banking on the fact that we’ll see them all again real soon. …

Just don’t call Dan an “electronic” musician anymore.