When I heard that Dan Deacon
would be playing a show around the first week of February at the Whitney, I wanted in. I got my name placed on a guest list and immediately asked if that included a +1. Apparently there would be no need, as Deacon would be playing for free...an exciting development because I could invite a bunch of friends to go with me. That's right...the only thing that went through my mind was that it would cost nothing for me and all my friends. Of course, then what was the guest list for? "Probably to make sure you get in," my editor guessed. "It's probably going to get packed pretty quickly." Oh, right. Everyone likes a free show, and Dan Deacon might have a few more fans than just my intimate group of friends and me.
Well, I learned a new lesson last Friday night: when Dan Deacon plays a free show at the Whitney, get there early. I had been told that it started at 7, so I made plans to stop home quickly after work, change, and jump back on a train to the Upper East Side. I didn't get out of work exactly on time, but still, I figured as I rolled up to the museum at 7:20 that this show, like many other shows, had no intention of starting on time, and probably was just letting people in. The crowd of people out in front made me feel better; the doors hadn't even opened, I figured. Actually, the people crowded in front were lining the wall of the Whitney, looking down at the glass windows of Dan Deacon making a relatively small group of kids collectively lose their minds. I quickly rushed in and went to the ticket desk to let them know I was on "the special list," but this meant nothing. The downstairs room was filled to capacity, and no one was getting in, guest list or not. I stood in the lobby, listening to what might have been the blips of "Wham City," hanging around with all the other kids with dyed hair and tight jeans, trying to appreciate the music without the visuals. This was, after all, how my parents first introduced me to Paul Simon in Central Park: on a picnic blanket, sitting on the wrong side of a fence. It didn't quite work, and it didn't help to see everyone else milling around, unsure of what to do with themselves. I tried going outside, where people were crowded against the walls, watching the show through large glass windows below. Two girls standing next to me began contemplating how feasible it would be to jump into the courtyard below us, easily a drop of over 15 feet, if only to see Dan Deacon’s sweat-soaked back through glass. They figured the shrubs would break their fall.
From my perch, the spectacle was just a bit easier to make out than the music playing, which wavered between rising, deafening keys, and sudden silence. The people looked stuck together, which could be a commentary on their hygiene or the show’s own secretions, and they rose up and down with the music, like a pot of water at its boiling point. It was hard to make out Deacon himself and the stage (at least from my view), looked incredibly small and bare. There seemed to be just enough room for one electrical apparatus and two giant speakers. Front and center in the crowd stood a figure in a pastel suit of sorts, with a giant balloon for a head. At first, I wondered if this mannequin was just one of the accoutrements that the venue, or Deacon himself, had brought for the performance, but the body was dancing, had real arms and hands, though the true head remained hidden. My best guess was that this was how someone decided to show up for a Dan Deacon show at the Whitney, which probably says enough in itself. With the exception of the giant, inflated head, the body blended with the rest of the crowd, so that it allowed one to trace the progress of one single body in the mass, pinging around to the music. The music took a brief backseat to my sudden questions about what would happen if the head popped. Would another balloon inflate to take its place? Would there just be a headless dancer, rocking out in the underbelly of the Whitney Museum? Something bizarre and awesome seemed to be taking place, somewhat in sight, somewhat in sound, but only tantalizingly so, and just enough to let me know just how much I was missing out on. As I left in defeat to catch the nearest subway back downtown (45 minutes is a depressingly long time for a retreat), I could hear Deacon’s voice, instructing the crowd to come closer, to make room for others to crowd into that ridiculously small space. - Eric Silver
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