So Percussion and Dan Deacon at the Ecstatic Music Festival

Thursday night I went to Merkin Concert Hall to hear So Percussion and Dan Deacon play the first concert in the Ecstatic Music Festival. I'd never heard Dan Deacon play, although I've been to several So Percussion shows (see here and here). Their shows have never failed to surprise and delight. Beginning when you walk in and see something unexpected on stage - a cactus, like last time I saw them - or in this case, a stand holding several two liter bottles of soda. Turns out, if you wire it up right, you can percuss just about anything. But more about that later. Jason Treuting was absent, but he gets a free pass because his wife had just given birth two hours before! Josh Quillen called him on his cell phone from the stage so that we could all sing happy birthday to little Elsie. Sweet!

The first drawing is actually a conflation of a couple of the first So Percussion pieces, from Imaginary City and Amid the Noise. The video screen behind the band was playing a clip of Jason Treuting's baby niece playing with an orange balloon, so of course, music was made with an orange balloon. Of course! And just for fun, several orange balloons were tossed out to the audience. In another selection, DJ Schmidt of Matmos was featured, playing various...objects? I'm no musician, but I'm pretty sure there was a kazoo or two. His is the face that looms large over the band.

If you are wondering how there are five people in this drawing with with only three members of So Percussion, Eric Rosenbaum was filling in and Greg McMurray was accompanying on guitar.

For Dan Deacon's piece, entitled Take a Deep Breath, he explained that we were all going to create the piece together. A guide was passed out for the audience consisting of twenty four instructions for the audience to follow. Deep breaths were taken. Also there was a lot of humming, oooing, aaaahing, clapping, shuffling, calling friends on cell phones and having them sing on speakerphone, and many many blood-curdling screams. It was rousing and fun, although perhaps a tad long? Still, when's the last time I helped create a musical piece in a concert hall, never? Everybody wins!

After intermission, we heard the collaborative piece by Dan Deacon and So Percussion. The piece is called (I kid you not) Ghostbuster Cook: The Origin of the Riddler. And it featured the soda bottles being percussed - finally! It's like Chekhov's gun - I'm all atwitter since the beginning of the show to see how they'll come into play. The bottles were wired up to Dan Deacon's rig to make some surprisingly beautiful sounds, at least when played by very talented people. And just when I thought the possibilities of the soda bottles had been exhausted, the bottoms of a few were pierced and the escaping liquid hit a plastic bin underneath to make a sound like rain. Using everyday mundane objects is the surprise. But the delight happens when that everyday thing makes a sound that is so unexpectedly beautiful, even sublime. And then, when the liquid ran out, I never listened to soda bubbles so long and attentively in my life. Surprise and delight.

Here's Dan Deacon making the magic happen with his magic machine.

And the percussive finale!

My friend Julia has posted her review and her amazing drawings of the show on her blog. Be sure to check them out here!