DAN DEACON/ULITIMATE REALITY – 01.15.08

the El Rey theater – Los Angeles

After LA locals Health and Abe Vigoda finished their opening sets, it was time for Ultimate Reality. The short film is a psychedelic mashup of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s lengthy film career, backed by two live drummers and some seriously anthemic Dan Deacon madness. The film weaves a loose hallucinogenic narrative that touches on most of Arnold’s major films with a dash of Bill and Ted thrown in for good measure. I don’t think I’d ever expected to see kids at a concert venue cheering for clips of Twins, but that’s what happened. I can imagine that there’s probably some extra weight to seeing Ultimate Reality in California, as we’re subjected to seeing the aging muscle mahn far more than the rest of the country.

The film ramps up appropriately, matching the pace with the two kinetic drummers and the Pong-on-acid arpeggios. The momentum is only broken by the occasional interruption of a hooded figure who comes out on stage to read the surreal chapter breaks, which do their best to explain the “plot” (never have quotes felt so appropriate). For much of the film, its energy infected the crowd, with pockets of folks just going nuts for an unlit stage and the work of a digital projector. By the end, it grew to be a tough pill to swallow. I kinda felt some envy for the dudes at the center of the pit smoking smuggled weed because it probably would have considerably stretched my attention span for the loud color swirl. It’s a unique trip, though and at $10 bucks a DVD from the merch table, it’s probably something that has a shot at becoming The Wall for the Casiotone set.

There were a handful of technical glitches that caused Dan Deacon’s set to start late, in addition to the epic feat of just setting up all his gear at the center of the El Rey’s sizable Art Deco ballroom. He was chatty through the whole affair, engaging everyone just to keep their interest going. Once everything was up and running, he had every light in the club turned off, leaving his iconic Glowing Green Skull and a column of white light from his table of gear.

For the uninitiated, Dan Deacon’s performances are always interesting. By doing his set from the belly of the beast, he rips down the separation between performer and audience. He exudes a desire for every single person in the audience to loose their shit and have the most fun possible, which given the way crowds behave these days is a good thing. When he expresses that same statement from from the center of the crowd, it feels that much more genuine than a performer saying the same thing from wayyy up on a stage.

Dan Deacon is like an animated gif: cheesy yet charming and a bit repetitive. His blippy, cartoon infected electro is akin to the looping, glittering accessories from many personal web pages 10 years ago. Going to see him live is really not unlike listening to one of his albums really really loud, until you jump in with the crowd. His shows are frenetic, balls of vocoder mess, best experienced from in the center of the chaos. If you don’t step into the pool, you’re probably just going to hear the music and see the Glowing Green Skull bouncing like a drunken lighthouse off-shore. It’s also best if you’re willing to just go nuts and be as sassy as Mr. Deacon encourages. Now, I haven’t really heard that term tossed around much since my dog of the same name died in ’89 followed by the teen magazine’s demise in ’96, but it’s almost a mantra for Dan Deacon. He tossed it out a few times, especially during some of the more crowd intensive numbers. There’s an amazing amount of good energy and charisma being exuded by the man; he really really wants you to have the best possible time.

As much as I can appreciate the vibe The Deac brings, I’m honestly ‘that guy’ who stands at the fringe and really hates to dance. I genuinely love him and his music, but the live experience isn’t really tailored for me.

But, I’m just a grumpy bastard…don’t let my lack of dancing prevent you from hitting up the Ultimate Reality tour and enjoying the joyful chaos to the fullest.

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