MOBILE USERS: m.isthmus.com
Connect with Isthmus on Twitter · Facebook · Flickr · Newsletters · Instagram 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 76.0° F  A Few Clouds
The Paper

TOUR STOP

Dan Deacon is a nerd's nerd
Pop's Steve Urkel explores the avant-garde

Dan Deacon is pop's Steve Urkel.
Dan Deacon is pop's Steve Urkel.
Article Tools:Read moreRead more Tour Stop items
Email this articleEmail this article
Print this articlePrint This Article
Email the authorEmail the author

With gargantuan, Steve Urkel-style glasses and an obsession with the bleeps and bloops of computers, Dan Deacon could be the second coming of Revenge of the Nerds' violin-toting Arnold Poindexter.

Deacon, 27, grew up in the midst of the Long Island ska explosion, performing songs like "Bionic Man Hands" with his band Channel 59. He then went to the local art-nerd institution of choice, SUNY Purchase, to study computer music composition and electro-acoustic instruments. Though Deacon mastered a number of traditional instruments, from guitar to tuba (which he's played with fellow Purchase alum Langhorne Slim), he chose to record collages of random sounds and sine waves from a Wavetek 180 signal generator.

While his early efforts were more sound art than popular song, Deacon found a fan-friendly formula in his 2007 album Spiderman of the Rings. He mixed goofy-yet-nostalgic lyrics such as "My dad is the coolest dad in dad school / He does not break any dad-rules" with layers of melody that recall Philip Glass. His brand-new album, Bromst, has pleased critics and fans alike, showcasing both his sense of humor and collages of samples that are a bit more grown-up, like a mind-bending round made from a Native American chant.

However, it's Deacon's live performances that have made him a household name - if your house is anywhere near an art school or a hipster enclave - by getting disaffected-looking concertgoers to smile genuinely, spill Coke on their vintage pants and abandon their posturing for an entire evening.

How? Deacon's personality has a lot to do with it. Hooking himself up to a grid of musical machines, he plants himself in the audience and leads fans on a trip that's as much a spiritual journey as it is a return to grade-school recess. At his Forward Music Fest performance last fall, Deacon invited concertgoers to take part in a Grease-style dance-off to a soundtrack of his tunes. Then the lights went out, Deacon's LEDs began to blink, and the crowd became a writhing amoeba of sweaty fans simultaneously shouting out lyrics and immersed in their own imaginations. It was as close to a rave as one can get these days, but something else as well.

Viewed from afar - or from above at the Majestic, where he performs May 4 - the scene is performance art, with the audience unaware of its role as performer. That's the kind of engineering that someone who's both a math nerd and an art dork could achieve.

Add to DiggShare this item
0 Comments

Log in or register to comment

moviesmusiceats
Select a Movie
Select a Theater

commentsViewedForum
Promotions Contact us Privacy Policy Jobs Newsletters RSS
Collapse Photo Bar