Things started out slow with Alan Resnick, not a musician or comedian, really, but more of a presenter of facial animation technology with a supposedly interactive avatar that looked like an especially uncomfortable Sims character. Resnick's set was odd and plagued by connectivity issues, which were thankfully resolved by the next set, featuring Dan Deacon ensemble member Chester Gwazda on guitar accompanied by thumping bass and recorded beats.
Height With Friends was equal parts Har Mar Superstar and the Beastie Boys, an energetic ensemble piece fashioned out of scraps of garage hip hop and basement karaoke machine parties. Led by Dan Keech, the Baltimore-based group amped the already bouncing crowd and raised the room's humidity by a few more degrees.
Dan Deacon's set opened with a crowd-wide apology to sound guy Alan, who, with his glasses and beard, had apparently been mistaken for Deacon several times that evening. The young crowd was perhaps still new enough to shows to be excited about catching a glimpse of the headliner offstage. According to Deacon, Alan was in far better physical shape, but could probably still benefit from a buddy visit to a gym to get "jacked as fuck, dog."
During songs, it was easy to categorize Dan Deacon as relentless; the rhythm and speed of each track designed for dancing, and if you can't keep up with the frenetic pace and adrenaline rush, then please step aside to allow others to enter the left side vs. right side dance contest instigated by Deacon from the stage.
Between songs, though, Deacon was relaxed and funny, chatting with the crowd and Alan, interacting with his fans in a loose, unscripted manner. Deacon may have expressed surprise in playing at a "proper rock club," as he called the Firebird, but he still performed as if for a small house party.
Deacon's tracks exploded with energy and cinematic swells, and his between-song references ran from "Jurassic Park" to "Terminator 2" to P90X. "Jubilant" is the right word for the experience, and Deacon presided over the festivities like a more musically-sophisticated but less Twitter-famous Andrew WK.
"America" is an adventurous cross-country road trip of an album, bubbling up past the limitations of all-electronic computer music and expanding into manipulated instrumentals, furtive atmospherics and dance beats. Songs like "Guilford Avenue Bridge" and "Lots" as well as Deacon's exuberance are honest attempts to bring some visceral emotion into the world of electro-pop, especially to a generation raised on the genre but not quite attached to it in any visible way. Perhaps someday, the floppy, Sharpie-X'ed upraised hands of the crowd will turn into ecstatically pumping fists, and the studied appreciative nods at bass drops will become enthusiastic dancing throughout each song.
And maybe, with the help of Deacon and his pop lust, these kids will eventually remove the earplugs they keep bringing to shows, and experience the kind of ear ringing the rest of us had so much fun earning.