Branx – Portland, OR – 3 December 2011
Purple & Green
As the night began, Portland electro-funk revivalists Purple & Green took the stage at the near-max capacity Branx. I’ve always been fascinated with all-ages shows in Portland, as it seems to draw the most overpowered, immature people I’ve ever seen at concerts. Halfway through Purple & Green’s set it became apparent that this show was going to be no different. As enigmatic lead singer Justin Johnson’s glitter-painted body began to move about the stage, interacting with the crowd and belting out some of the most impressive male vocals I’ve ever heard on a disco track, you could tell that the fans were here to move. And move they would. Three tracks into the band’s nearly hour-long set, one, ten, then about thirty raving crowd members jumped onto the stage to join the band. The dynamic between the stage and the rest of the crowd was now rather interesting, as all of people who were dancing left the floor for the elevated platform, and Johnson used the extra real estate to his advantage. With producer Adam Forkner buried behind a dozen different tween couple making out, Johnson roamed the crowd, leading the audience in various chants and dances. It was fun, and Purple & Green still teeter on the brink of absolute stardom, especially with singles like “Right Here,” but my patience with the questionably young crowd members began to grow thin.
So when Dan Deacon began to forge his path into the front of the crowd, setting up his modest collection of pedals and keyboards, I was interested to see how well it would hold up as the show carried on. Also with Deacon was his signature light pole, outrigged with a glowing green skull and various patterned strobes and colored lights. So there’s your tangible analysis of Dan Deacon at Branx on a brisk December night. But seeing Deacon is more of an experience than it is a performance. It’s one of those things that you are either going to love if you put yourself out there, or you’re going to hate if you have no interest in spastic electronic music and sweaty bodies. It’s all been documented before: the interpretive dance circles, the crowd participation, Deacon’s monologues. Whether you’ve heard a lick of Deacon on record or not, you’re probably well-versed in what his live shows entail. So sure, it was predictable. But that doesn’t mean the charm and energy has left his concerts; in fact, nearly three years after the release of his last record, Deacon is still touring as strong as ever. And even though I was a fan of Spiderman of the Rings and Bromst, I couldn’t name a single track he played that night. A few bars seemed recognizable, but either way, the music itself is hardly the point of the show. At various points during the night, Deacon had to stop the show and tell the crowd to calm down and back off his table of gadgets and lights, as multiple crowd surfers and bodies came within inches of derailing the entire performance. There was even an incident where Deacon shut everything off and screamed at a patron to leave the venue, calling him a creep and chastising the member for invading his personal space. It was all surreal, frantic, and powerful. I fear the opinion of somebody who was new to Deacon’s work, but for myself, it was everything I expected. Which is to say, it was a Dan Deacon concert.
Photography by Zach Stauber.