Aside from standing next to John Waters for twenty minutes, there was little about seeing Dan Deacon live at Baltimore's Ottobar that didn't sadden me. Deacon is an amazingly gifted musician who has produced two (four? eight?) albums that show a real musical mind at work behind all the electronic silliness. I love the goofiness of his music making. But nobody at his show was listening to anything in his music, goofy or otherwise. It was just a single massive mosh pit that seemed dimly aware that they were dancing to a beat with some chords that seemed to fit decently well together. And the speakers were pounding the beats at such a high level that you couldn't even hear the amazing designs in his compositions.
This is a shame, because Deacon is most definitely the real thing. On the classical side, music like his seems the next logical step from Glass, Reich, Stockhausen, perhaps even Nancarrow and Ligeti (at least Lukacs). On the 'pop' side, this is clearly somebody who knows his Eno and Bowie (and perhaps the ghost of Zappa presiding over his every idea) but he's also part of the post-Aphex Twin world of electronic music that goes for musical complexity without fear. But there is very little in his music of the sort of ironic numbing to expression that makes so much electronica not worth listening to. There's real emotional commitment to this music, which is, sadly, too rare in the electronic music world. To my great relief, classical and the various pop worlds are drawing ever closer together, with more cross pollination than we've seen since the invention of modern popular music. And the sooner he can find a live crowd that actually listens to his music, the quicker people are going to realize that he might soon be a giant.