I want to start off by saying that I was planning on writing this show review with a nostalgic, satisfied tone, but in light of recent weather events, I’d like to take a moment to express my gratitude. Sunday night, I was lucky enough to catch Dan Deacon’s set at the Basement East. Monday night, the Basement East was destroyed via a tornado that swept through my beloved Nashville. The Beast was historic; it was a favorite venue for many that lived here, came to visit, or were performing. Please send your thoughts and prayers to the Music City as it hopes to rebound from this disaster. Donate to the Basement east and the East Nashville community here.
Lights dim in the room, with just a blue backdrop and a spotlight on Dan Deacon, who was chilling in a festive-colored bowling-striped shirt. He welcomes the crowd as a Santana cover band playing Prodigy covers. That would set the mood for the night: lighthearted and engaging. A master at stage banter, his comfortability washes over the crowd to keep everyone loose. I didn’t quite know what to expect, but after starting with 2020’s hit “Becoming A Mountain (off of his latest LP Mystic Familiar. I immediately sensed major LCD Soundsystem vibes. If you know me, this is a huge compliment, considering that I consider the 2017 Copenhagen LCD show my favorite of all time. The noise-pop composer flexes his ability to layer a beautifully entropic cacophony of harmonies in a way that makes his voice a cornerstone instrument. Following this, he ventured more into a progressive rock vibe that increasingly resembled LCD with 2008’s “The Crystal Cat” (off of critically acclaimed Spiderman Of The Rings). After the crowd is aptly warmed up, he starts his audience participation segment of the show for which he’s known. Led by a rotation of audience members, the whole room was shaking from the dancing for another 2020 hit “Sat By A Tree” (my personal favorite from his new album).
After everyone, including Dan, needed a breather, he took the vibe down a notch with “Sheathed Wings” (a non-single from 2015’s Glass Riffer). This reminded me of vintage Sleepy Party People; a comfortable dream-pop electronic sound that washes over the crowd like a calm wave. How would he keep up with my rising expectations? To end the first third of the show, he splits the crowd in half for an audience-led interpretive dance for 2020’s deep cut “Fell Into the Ocean”. This naturally flowed into a noise-pop jam session of “True Thrush”, “Snookered” and “Slow With Horns”. The relationship that his calculated art-rock beats had with the chaos of post-punk-influenced electronic vocals and instrumentation was simultaneously anxious and hypnotic. The only things separating the songs was a philopolitical discussion endorsing Bernie Sanders, who had a rally/concert at Basement East the following night (when the tornado struck) and the creation of a human tunnel wrapping around the venue.
To start the end section of his set, he set the vibe as more of a victory lap celebrating the perfect, yet raw first two-thirds of his set. He jumped straight into his biggest hit to date: “When I Was Done Dying”, to which fans were climbing on stage and crowd-surfing. The atmosphere changed to a pure party from a concert. He finished with his Arp series from Mystic Familiar that combined to return to a reminiscence of LCD Soundsystem’s latest release American Dream. While the comparisons were very similar in vibe, expertise and style, Dan Deacon is still a hidden gem in music. His ability to harness crowd participation to elevate his live performances leave you with a show you’ll never forget.
TL;DR This’ll go down as a top ten show I’ve seen in this city and will grow to be a defining memory of my time here. I definitely recommend catching him on this tour or next; don’t worry, he’ll be around.
Written by Sam Harkey
Photographed by Tristan Sickles