Live Review / Photos: Dan Deacon, Future Islands, Teeth Mountain @ 9:30 Club (2009.05.17)


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MP3: Teeth Mountain – Ghost Science from Teeth Mountain (2007)

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MP3: Dan Deacon – Padding Ghost from Bromst (2009)

All Photos: the inimitable institution, Josh Sisk (full set here)

Dan Deacon is hitting up Sonar on June 13th, I suggest that you seek out tickets.

Editor’s note: Or you could enter to win tickets from Aural States.  Check back in just a few days.

Out in rural Carroll County where I reside, there’s a powerful stigma behind the idea of Baltimore. It brings up connotations of dimly lit streets, frightening murder-prone men behind every corner, and the Inner Harbor existing as an oasis of “real citydom” in the midst of it all. Needless to say, most of my country-bumpkin peers aren’t very familiar with the town. However, if they just so happened to have been at the 9:30 Club this past Sunday night, I’m sure their minds would have completely eliminated that sinister reputation, replacing it with one of ecstatic joy.

tm1The night kicked off with a few middle-school-age kids playing Strokes-inspired tunes to an eager reception. They never gave out a band name, nor a reason why they were there, but their ambitious cover of “A Day In the Life” was more than enough to impress the skeptical audience. The always-original Teeth Mountain followed, prepared with three noisy experimental jams whose sonic delivery brought even the resistant balcony-dwellers’ bones to an uneasy chill. Still, the crowd remained stiff, many seated, basking in the hordes of dissonant percussion and distorted instrumentation of all shapes and sizes.

It was only when Future Islands appeared, being a Deacon-described “feet” band, that the populated upper level of 9:30 diffused to the larger floor. Shelling out easy-yet-imaginative, 80’s-wave influenced tunes, the frenetic blasts of vocalist Sam Herring contrasted with the enjoyable familiarity of his backing. They’re always a solid contribution to any lineup. I remember looking back at a friend of mine, her eyes wildly glazed, mouth half open, enjoying music so loud that you forget how stupid you look dancing to it.

fi1After Future Islands’ set, things really started to heat up (literally as well as figuratively). It took roughly 15 to 30 minutes for Dan Deacon’s fifteen-person ensemble to arrange their diverse collection of instruments, during which the impatient audience became united in a way that I have yet to experience elsewhere. We were all bored, listening to the between-set songs, wishing that our favorite goofy electronics guru would take the stage. It was really quite mundane until someone decided to play Seal over the PA system, when it soon became apparent that we should (ironically) chant right along with. I think we all noticed that everyone else was shouting along as loudly as they could, being that the audience was clearly drowning out the volume of the speakers. To accentuate the absurd effect of our cohesion, every once in awhile the sound guy would turn down the master volume. There was a sense of mutual-admiration for one another, that we all knew of and were content with each other’s presence.  A mood perfectly suited for Dan Deacon’s epic brand of electro-pop.

Even our Danny boy sung along to “No Rain” as he took the stage, beginning his set with a tale about George Costanza and some wicked Taz tattoos. (NPR has the full concert, including the story streaming, because I know you’re interested). He lead off with “Get Older,” and stuck with material chiefly from his latest, Bromst, for the show’s totality, only getting off track for the very welcome “Crystal Cat” and “Wham City.”

dd2Of course, Dan had all of his Deaky little tricks, including a dance-off (starring Space Ghost), a poorly executed but brilliantly conceptualized activity called Gauntlet, some hands-on-head reflection, and everyone’s yearly dosage of guided sing-along. The already-harmonious group was quick to play along with his games, which made the music almost secondary to the crowd interaction.

I think we all already know that Dan Deacon is a good time, so I don’t need to tell you about how he creates a uniquely euphoric atmosphere, or about how delightful of a person he appears to be. The whole show had a nostalgic tinge, what with it being the last stop on the tour. It came to a worn-out finale with the anthemic “Wham City” (underlying some of Mr. Deacon’s wonderful circuit-bent jamming). Like Bromst, Deacon’s presentation at the 9:30 showed a new side to his music. Those last few minutes of improvised synthesizer orchestration yearned for home, the few-miles-away Baltimore. Maybe it was the profound amount of fatigue I was experiencing, but I still think that the final moments of this concert were simply moving, to say the very least. To miss one of Deacon’s shows, especially one with the Bromst ensemble, would be a mistake that you wouldn’t want to make.


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