Last Thursday the 12th, at the strike of 6:00, I scooted out of the BUST office and excitedly headed straight to Pier 84 for the first free show of the Hudson River Rocks summer concert series, featuring Dan Deacon and John Maus. The show opened with Baltimore grunge-rock group, Roomrunner, who had a few technical issues and consequential commentary (“all of our shit is broken”), which ended up interrupting the potential loud/fast/hard energy the band could have fused into the crowd.
Next up was electronic musician/composer John Maus, who has a reputation for manic live performances. After a lot of screaming sans microphone, punching himself in the face, pouring water over his body, and bouncing up and down, Maus’ eccentric set was nothing short of frenzied. I appreciated his passionate, seemingly cathartic performance (I mean, he’s working towards his Ph. D in political philosophy—I’d need to let off some steam, too!) and am a huge fan of his synth-pop tunes myself, but was still a bit disappointed that everything aside from the main vocals was pre-recorded. This technique is old news for him, though, so at least I didn’t go into it expecting anything else.
Finally, fellow Baltimore electronic artist Dan Deacon came on right as the sun had descended and the breeze was (thankfully) kicking up. Known for his party games and audience participation, the artist began the show asking everyone to get down on one knee and reach for a star in the sky. He then continued his show ritual, having the crowd shout out a countdown for the start of the first song. It took a few minutes for the audience to loosen up, but—boy—when they did, it became a big, beautiful, sweaty and energetic sea of bliss. People were moshing and crowd surfing by the middle of the second song. Deacon seems to have the ability to do this-- to get even New York’s most jaded concert go-er to bust a move or two.
In between dance-off circles and human merry-go-rounds, Deacon was full of charismatic chitchat. Amongst the joking, he also had some political things to say. I’m always a little conflicted about musicians giving opinionated speeches at their shows (Hello, Barbra!). In one way, I think the audience can feel a little trapped. We’re at a show we obviously wanted to go to, and then we get stuck having to listen to certain opinions in a setting we had not anticipated. I was actually kind of surprised one bold audience member didn’t end up screaming, “Get on with the music!” It’s probably because everyone was having too much of a good time. On the other end, I really respect that, as an artist, he is using his position to express opinions on matters he feels need to be improved. Ultimately, I’m more critical of public figures that don’t do anything with their positions on the pedestal.
My not-so-great iPhone photo from the show
Anyway, musings aside, this was only a very small portion of the entire performance. And the performance was incredible. The breeze wasn’t helping any of the poor fools in the main crowd pit, as we found ourselves being moved and pushed by those around us. Deacon played songs both old and new with the assistance of some killer live drumming, including past favorites like “Crystal Cat” and “Ohio,” as well as tracks off of the upcoming album, due at the end of August. We were spread apart like the Red Sea, asked to carefully run away as far as we could, and imitated the moves of our designated dance leaders. By the end of it, everyone was exhausted, sweaty, and smiling: exactly how one should be after a good summer show. In the words of Dave Hill (whose recent Brooklyn Vegan Def Leppard show review has been the source of many giggles at the BUST office this past week): “that shit was nuts.”
Check out a fan video from the show, below, and see Deacon for yourself during his current tour. The new album, America, comes out August 28th on Domino Records.