Present in Mind, Body, & Smart Phone - Dan Deacon: Musician, App.

May 6, 2013 -

Brett Blackman

Any avide show or concert goer knows that the success of any live performance has just as much to do with the audience as it does with the musician. The two are locked into a symbiotic relationship wherein the musician, armed with songs, words, and sounds, conducts the emotions and happiness of the audience, and in turn the audience feeds the musician their love, approval, and energy.  This past Sunday, I had the pleasure of seeing the Dan Deacon Ensemble along side many of Baltimore's finest at the Current Gallery. Unlike his solo performances, where Deacon is renowned for playing at floor level amongst the crowd, The Ensamble—which consists of Deacon himself, Chester Gwazda, Denny Bowen, Dave Jacober, and Jordan Casey—played a modestly sized stage set up in the lot area behind the Current Gallery Space. Deacon started the show with a piece of surreal guided meditation that could have been taken from a contemporary, pop art reworking of Un Chien Andalou. Asking us all to take a knee, Deacon's words brought the audience together in a mutual soul melding experience of absurdity which left the foreboding sense that we were about to experience something beautifully bizarre — But what were we to expect when the event description read: "5000 Garfields in infinite version of heaven explore new Dilbert Calendars at the Outdoor Rager at the Current Gallery!"

Over the next hour Deacon conducted the crowd with masterful skill, engaging the audience in his music through directed dance and poetically absurd parables. Before his performance of "True Thrush",  Deacon asked everyone to turn on their Dan Deacon App. The App, which was made in collaboration with Wham City Lights, listens to the music being played and syncs everyone's phones at the concert into a giant, crowd sourced light-show. While the effect was not as noticeable in the audience of about 200—as it may have been in a a stadium or larger venue—it stil brought about a strange feeling of connectivity.

For many of us, our phones and our digital interactions are just as important in our daily lives as our physical ones, however, the relationship between the two is not as harmonious as we often wish it was. At shows or in clubs, one may often see people completely tuned out from their physical surroundings, their attention held instead by the glowing white light emitted from a phone. This can be horribly distracting to a DJ or performer, and evan to some extent insulting. Instead of taking the traditional approach and asking the audience to turn off their phones, Deacon's app embraces the fact that these little rectangles of metal plastic, and glass are dear to us; that they are our connection to all of human knowledge; that they have become as much a conduit of communication as our mouths and ears. Thus, instead of asking us to mute ourselves from the digital world, Deacon asked us to participate; to be present at his show not only in body and mind, but also virtually. Evan though there were only around 30 people with the app that night, those of us with it were not just parts of the audience, but also a part of the show. By occupying our tiny computer counterparts with images and colors that supplemented the music, Deacon's performance became completely immersive.


You can find Dan Deacon online at: | Facebook | Twitter


You can download the Dan Deacon App here:

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