Sometime in 2005, New York City’s Apocalypse Lounge hosted Dan Deacon for a show that he said changed his perspective on performing. Partway through the set, the power blew out at the venue and electronic music composer Deacon said he had to act quickly.
“I really didn’t want to lose the crowd. I wanted to keep the energy going, so I was just stalling for time while (crew members) were trying to move all of these amps and speakers away from the breaker box so they could turn the breaker back on,” Deacon said. “I just started thinking about the audience differently, because I asked everyone to make a big clearing in the center of the room and everyone was looking towards the center of the room and I just noticed, ‘Oh, this is completely changing the focal point of what this venue is’ … Now everyone is looking in a different direction and that simple action is really resonating with me.”
It was at this show that the Baltimore-based musician said he realized the audience was part of the performance, not merely onlookers. He said the people who attend his concerts are actually the element that break up the monotony of a tour — a format where he might often perform the same set of songs in a similar fashion from night to night. Concert-goers might have a chance to be a part of Deacon’s performance when he plays at Rumba Café Tuesday.
“Most of that energy and most of the change doesn’t come from the venue, it comes from the audience. So, in my mind, you don’t have a performance without an audience. The audience is the performance, and that’s what makes each show unique and exciting,” Deacon said. “So when you incorporate the audience, you incorporate this element of chance, you incorporate this element of newness that could never be replicated.”
However, Deacon did not make an a decision to permanently have himself encircled from that particular New York show on, he said. It took time, and the musician said in general, he musician is somewhat hesitant about changing up his live performances too drastically and attempts to be versatile in this setting.
“It was a slow progression from there. It’s not like I went home and started sketching out how the audience would be the focal point of my performance, it sort of like organically grew,” Deacon said. “Once you add an element it’s almost like a curse, because it’s always there. You have to keep augmenting and changing it. As soon as you do something unique, if you continue to do that, it becomes old.”
One way Deacon might have helped combat a potentially dull concert was the development of his own mobile app, published in 2012, that allowed audience members to interact with his live music on a visual level. According to its press release, the app “turns each phone into a source of synchronized light and sound depending on your location within each venue.” Crafted close to two years ago, Deacon said the app is still used by concert-goers today.
Deacon’s upcoming solo show in Columbus, scheduled for Tuesday at Rumba Café, comes amidst a tour in support of Arcade Fire, whose North American tour starts Thursday. Deacon is set to open for the band thrice before his Columbus gig. The level of Deacon’s popularity might be small compared to that of the Grammy Award-winners, but he said he is interested to see how his music will go over in the larger, stadium shows as an opener versus the one he is doing in Columbus.
“I’m excited to see how it’ll translate or augment and what the challenge or the highlights will be. It will certainly be different than the Rumba Café, which is a space that I’m much more used to,” Deacon said. “But I wonder how that show will feel in the context of this other tour and if it will feel more challenging or more familiar or the opposite.”
Instead of performing on a stage at Rumba Café, Deacon said he plans to play on the floor, at the same level as the audience.
Ben Hamilton of Benco Presents, the promoter hosting the concert at Rumba Café, said Deacon is representative of the type of artists Benco brings to Columbus.
“We do stuff from rock to hip-hop to light country to dance music. We’re pretty all over the place,” Hamilton said. “Dan Deacon is definitely a dance party … We get it while it’s hot and up-and-coming.”
Although Deacon’s most recent full-length album is 2012’s “America,” the composer said he will mostly perform newer, unreleased songs made after that record on his current tour. In the last year, he said he has been writing material for a new release.
The new music is still a work in progress. Deacon said a consideration for his new material regards how much acoustic instrumentation he wants to substitute for electronic — such as having acoustic drums as opposed to synthetic drums.
“All of the material is written, and since it’s largely electronic, for lack of a better term, it’s recorded — it’s there,” Deacon said. “I kind of think with this record, I do want to keep it more electronic-focused because I’ve been so fixated on acoustic instruments for awhile that I’m sort of having a renewed interest in the synthetic timbres (that) for a while I was replacing.”
Deacon said his modern career took off when he “fell in love” with being a touring musician during his college years, while studying composition at State University of New York Purchase College. The first encounter with music that started it all occurred at a much younger age, though.
“I played the trombone in the fourth grade,” Deacon laughs. “From there, it was unstoppable.”
Rumba Café is located at 2507 Summit St., with the show set to start at 8 p.m. Damn the Witch Siren is scheduled to open. Tickets are $13, and can be purchased online at Ticketweb.com or in the campus area at Used Kids Records, located at 1980 N. High St.
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