Google the words “Dan Deacon Interview/Ohio.” Then watch the YouTube video.
Go ahead, do it. I’ll wait.
In the footage a younger, thinner Dan — sporting a Tweety Bird T-shirt and what appear to be ski goggles with the lenses popped out — endures the well-meaning questions of a Georgia talk show host. Then he performs the song “Ohio,” to a presumably befuddled TV audience composed largely of retirees and housewives, all with the help of a Casiotone keyboard he claims to have acquired from his friend Nick. Gangly and soft-spoken, with the mannerisms of a stage-shy bar mitzvah, Dan Deacon is an unlikely guest on NBC’s Coastal Sunrise morning news.
When I saw Dan Deacon this summer, it seemed his setup had changed slightly since that fateful morning in Georgia. Although my memory of the evening is hazy at best — in large part because an actual haze of sweat and cigarette smoke drifted menacingly over the dance floor — I am reasonably certain that Dan has swapped at least some of his throwback sound equipment for a fleet of iPod Shuffles that he uses to trigger his various samples. I am reasonably certain of this fact because during his set the Shuffles were malfunctioning, perhaps due to the sweltering heat or the enormous globules of perspiration falling from Dan’s face as he worked, or because of the inherently questionable construction of the iPod Shuffle itself. I am also reasonably certain because, after she was hit on by a guy claiming to be Dan’s brother but before she gave up looking for us on the packed dance floor and ventured out into the mean streets of Williamsburg, my friend almost fell right on top of Dan Deacon’s Shuffles. She was literally this close. Her skin is probably still charmed by the after-effects of his greatness, assuming his greatness pervades even the copious sweat of his brow.
For her, this sort of proximity may well have been life-changing. For Dan, protectively hovering over his equipment like a mother hen, fending off the outstretched arms of enthusiastic fans and potential Shuffle-crushers, it seemed mostly to be nerve-wracking. But such are the perils of life as a hipster all-star, even one who looks more like a convenience store employee than a dance god on a grueling nation-wide tour.
This comparatively average-looking man has transcended his own nerdiness, overcome his early baldness and his rec specs and scored a rave on Pitchfork. Mixing the comparatively run-of-the-mill ingredients of vintage T-shirts, sweatbands and a function generators, Dan Deacon has created a brand of music that is simultaneously offbeat and infectious, reminiscent of sugar-coated pop that has been horribly yet wonderfully mangled.
And, after several years of making music that he likens to what “really cool six-year-olds” would make if they had the same equipment, Dan Deacon has transcended daytime television and will find his way into the hallowed halls of the Ezra Stiles dining hall tonight.
Though Dan may not share with us the secrets of his infinite energy when he comes to play Yale — tourmate and percussionist Jeremy Hyman advocates planning “your days productively [so] you can achieve your goals during the waking hours!” — he may share with us a little bit of the energy itself. And almost certainly some of his sweat.