Upon entering the Town Hall Pub at 3340 N. Halsted, I was greeted by a big friendly guy checking IDs at the door. Upon paying him the $5 cover charge and entering the main room of the pub, I was greeted by a rather intense smell. I think it was a mixture of body odor, cigarettes and booze, though it was definitely body odor that rose to the top of that fragrant blend. I joke about dirty hipsters a lot, but man, these were some dirty fucking hipsters. Like, they-needed-a-shower dirty. Or a can of Axe. Or at least a Glade Plug-In behind the bar.
Once I got some bourbon in me, everything became more pleasing to the senses, except for the balding white rapper finishing up his shtick on stage. His glittery white unitard revealed the outline of his package, while his delivery revealed that irony wasn’t dead, just really trite and cringeworthy. Yeah, dude, we get that you think hip-hop is laughable and you write wack rhymes and dress in a silly outfit to drive that point home. We got that after like 2 minutes, so that should have been the length of your set, not a full half-hour.
Next up was Ecstatic Sunshine, the band I came to see. They’re soon to have an album out on my friend Todd’s label, so I wanted to see what the fuss was about. When I mentioned that I’d let him know if I ended up writing about the gig, he informed me that writing about a band on a friend’s label would be a conflict of interest: I’d be a biased reporter, not giving you a fair musical scoop. I don’t really see myself as a music reporter with this blog, but I also see his point and respect his integrity. In the interest of compromise then, I’ll skip over reviewing their set in any depth. I’ll just say I really dug it and that my recommendation comes totally on the IMHO, yo.
I was about to leave after Ecstatic Sunshine’s set, but Todd urged me to stay and check out some of the next artist’s material. He said that he wanted to know what I thought of it, and his slight grin gave away that I’d be in for a treat. I needed to sober up for the drive home anyway and Dan Deacon, with his table of cracked electronics and Elvis intro music, seemed well suited for the job.
Dan Deacon certainly did seem to like Elvis. He subjected us to “Blue Christmas” on repeat for about 5 times during his opening technical difficulties. Although at the time it was mildly frustrating, it was also somewhat liberating. With each successive play of the song, I felt one more piece of sanity refreshingly slip away. I’m still not sure if he really had technical difficulties or if it was all part of his circus.
Once his battle station was fully operational, Deacon launched into his opening monologue. One-man bandleader and chat show host all rolled into one, Dan proved to be seriously fucking hilarious. He could have carried a night of stand-up comedy just as well as he did an indie show, but then we would have sadly missed out on his electronic mayhem.
Although an Apple Powerbook was present on stage, I think it was only used for playing “Blue Christmas” from iTunes at the start of the gig. It looked a bit stunned, sitting there trying to figure out why its analog grandparents got all the love. Lo-fi, warbly and fast, Deacon’s tunes whipped around the bar like Devo on a case of Red Bull. Hidden within the synthesized discord, however, lived a love of classic rock and roll melody reminiscent of Daniel Miller’s Silicon Teens. Perhaps Dan Deacon is secretly Zombie Elvis, reborn with a vocoder and an itchy finger on the pitch-bender.
Most of Deacon’s inter-song dialogue consisted of what I later learned were his trademark elaborate countdowns. Yeah, in case you’ve never been to a Dan Deacon show, I know it sounds weird, but the dude counts down a lot. I never thought counting could be that much fun, but he seriously makes it into an art form, instructing the audience with painstaking detail on how each countdown is to be specifically performed. If Oscar the Grouch ever starts selling as much meth as my next-door neighbor does, The Children’s Television Workshop should consider Dan as The Count’s successor on Sesame Street.
The best part about Saturday night was how Deacon seemed to be able to fit in any place where people craved fun with open ears. It’s a shame that the Drop Bass Network were run out of every county in Wisconsin by the early 00’s, because if there were ever a breed special enough to play the Massive tent at 2 a.m. and singe already burnt brains with twisted tunes, it’s Dan.
I ducked out before the last band of the night, the Killer Whales, took to the stage, despite another friend of mine urging me to stay the full course. I knew that I would have enjoyed it, but as I’ve said before, I can’t stand the whole 500-bands-in-one-night Fireside Bowl bullshit anymore. Okay, I just checked my notes and it appears that only 4 bands played in total that night (if you count MC Unitard), so I guess that means I’m just too old to stand that long. I’m okay with that. It looks likes Time Out Chicago took care of reviewing their set for me, so I’ll leave you with that article and most likely see you at the Killer Whales’ gig at the Empty Bottle on August 21.
Until then, keep on counting…
(I can’t watch this clip without wanting to go to another Dan Deacon show right fucking now! Magicians foreverrrrrrrr!):