Review of Dan Deacon & the Wham City Ensemble live at London ULU, 5 June 2009
History is littered with examples of great minds stopping a beat to think 'Is it just me, or is this not right?'. It'd be high and mighty to suggest my experience at Dan Deacon's recent London show draws parallels with the rise of Nazism but I was left non-plussed by the crowd's baying enthusiasm.
For the uninitiated, Deacon's music is a brand of scatterbeat techno, poured through the day-glo 'nu-rave' sieve but nodding sagely in the direction of post-rock floor shakers such as Ulrich Scnauss and Fuck Buttons. It's a sensory onslaught. Not unpleasant, merely belligerent. And accordingly 'so hot right now'.
What it isn't, is a delight in the live arena. Try as he might, there is only so much spectacle the gnomic, bespectacled Deacon can wring from his knob-twiddling antics, while the presence of his backing 'Wham City Ensemble' is tempered by his position bestride a podium in front of them.
Advance warning had been given of Deacon's attempts to spice the evening up with dance contests, seating the crowd and organising human trains round the block. It all struck as a lame attempt to cover up for the lack of interest onstage and the struggle for the excellent music to translate live. In an already overstuffed venue, marshalling the crowd to make room to bring exhibitionists together for forced fun seemed lifted from a nightmare Freshers Week at the University of Indie.
Left to my own devices, and placing to one side agoraphobia brought on by over-crowding, I might just have danced the night away. After all I'm not averse to fun, it's just that allowing a sweaty, beer swilling, rotund gentleman place his hand on my scalp isn't my idea of it. And quite like those head-scratching dissenters, Berlin circa 1933, I left wondering why so few felt the same.