Photos By: Amanda Martinek
By: Ned Molder
The night started normally enough, with average-looking hipsters milling about outside the Casbah smoking cigarettes, roadie-types bringing black boxes of gear in through the stage door, and doorman giving me a solid 6-second glare-down while he held my ID in disbelief that the 15 year old in the photo is the scraggly guy standing in front of him.
But boy, did things get weird. And I mean that in the absolute best way possible. Live shows at the same venue tend to blend together in retrospect, so sometimes it’s hard to remember who you saw when, but I am certain that I will never forget this night. Let me explain.
The first of two openers was Ben O’Brien, of the “Earth Universe” “Cult”. O’Brien shared with us his awakening, sparked by a mystical experience reading the timeless knowledge printed on the side of his Dr. Bronner’s Castille Soap bottle. “All One or None!” he preached. I’ll admit his logic was flawless. O’Brien explained all the mysteries in our lives and revealed that it was always him, all the time. “That deep yearning, that need for something more, I am the answer! Those times your dog was licking your face, or your landlord…When your landlord was licking your face, that was me! Licking your face!” I couldn’t argue. O’Brien climactically concluded his sermon by explaining that chickens are the highest energy food because they are essentially humans except not illegal to eat, then proved his dedication to chicken consumption, and “Earth Universe” ideals, by drinking 6 raw eggs out of a glass. Seriously. Sign me up. “I’ll be at the merch table with shirts and stickers and stuff…thanks everyone!” he sheepishly mumbled to deafening screams and applause.
Next up was Brooklyn based Prince Rama.
The female trio wore black and lightning green tights and silver glitter eye make-up, and the lead singer wore a Dale Earnhardt Jr. beach towel around her head. A pitch-shifter filtered her mic input so when she spoke she sounded like Tyler the Creator’s therapist in the opening track of his album Goblin. I don’t quite remember what she said but I got the feeling that Prince Rama had some secret about the universe, about which they could only give hints through their esoteric performances and affinity for Monster Energy drinks. Their performance was captivating to say the least.
Frontwoman Taraka Larson climbed over speakers, hung from light beams, and leaned backwards over stage monitors to sing mere inches from the faces of front-row attendees. I burst out laughing midway through the show when I turned around and saw not dancing humans, but mostly horrified yet intrigued expressions on stationary bodies. I guess that’s an honest reaction. Larson’s voice was still that of Goblin until the very end when it shifted up a few octaves and she said “seriously, thank you!” and somehow everyone snapped out of it, whatever it was, and the energy level in the Casbah went way up. We all cheered madly as Prince Rama took their bows and welcomed Dan Deacon before leaving the stage.
Dan Deacon is a founding member of the Baltimore-based art and music collective “Wham City”, and has released 8 studio albums since 2003. He is also one of the kindest, wisest, and most down-to-earth performers you will ever see. For example, Dan was setting up his electronics on stage while the song “Tequila” by The Champs was playing. When everyone shouted “Tequila” Dan shouted, “Gotta keep ’em separated” into his mic. Wisdom. Anyway, I had high hopes for this show, and I was not disappointed. Deacon warmed up the crowd with a group visualization exercise in which we imagined all our anxiety as a face emerging from our hand before releasing this anxiety-face into the universe. Then he encouraged us to never feel compelled to do anything we don’t want to, a profoundly simple concept that deeply resonated with me at that moment. When we were all anxiety free and laughing, he launched his set.
Deacon’s music has a characteristic style of numerous layers of synths and filtered sine waves piled on top of, and buried beneath, his own vocoded voice, all set to epileptic tribal computer drums. The entire venue was at least 10 degrees warmer by the time the second song was finished. Towards the middle of his set, Deacon asked the audience to clear a space in the middle of the room for a dance contest. Two chosen dancers started boogying to “When I Was Done Dying” and chose others to switch with. Eventually everyone decided to join in and the room went nuts.
Time flew by as Dan played old hits from his 2009 album “Bromst” before playing a shortened version of “USA”, a 22-minute, 4-part epic, that had people head banging, moshing, closing their eyes, swaying, maybe crying, and probably saying the pledge of allegiance under their breaths. After the whole thing was said and done, I couldn’t hear too well but I could hear Dan Deacon individually thank each one of his crew members, the Casbah bar staff, Ben O’Brien, Prince Rama, and everyone in the audience for coming out. “And get home safe everyone! Thank you!” and then it was over. We speechlessly left the Casbah and walked toward my car, and there was Dan Deacon standing there, returning texts next to my Honda! We shook his hand and told him how much fun the show was. Of course, he was the nicest human being and thanked us for coming and talked with us for a full minute or so before he had to return to the Casbah to talk to dozens of others just like us. If you have not listened to Dan Deacons music, DO IT NOW. Then find where his next show is and fly your ass out there and see him.