Words By Kate Baron (@katefate57)
I thought I had walked into a local high school recital of some morbid version of The Wizard of Oz when I caught the tail end of Philly-based Evil Sword’s set at The First Unitarian Church this past Friday night. Costume clad and covered in dirt, they had a simple lo-fi sound mixed with brooding child-like vocals and flutes, giving it a whimsical twist. This was just a taste of a line up full of passionate and experimental performance artists at the sold out show featuring Dan Deacon and company.
Ben O’Brien, also known as Earth Universe, claimed via PowerPoint presentation that he was reborn when he awoke facedown on the bathroom floor clutching a “holy bottle” of Dr. Bronner’s magic soap and he “felt entitled to putting his knowledge into a system”. So he started a cult. He is now touring the country to recruit followers through his brilliant comedic prowess and, albeit thinly veiled, commentary on religion and the susceptibility of human nature. We were schooled on the appropriate way to pray: “by trying to stick your hands all the way into your mouth, as far as you can, and try to grab your brain and just say something you want out loud”. He admits to making it up, but insists that is what makes his religion unstoppable. They believe everything and nothing. Oh, and his religion has a 100% prayers answered guarantee. I drank the Kool-Aid and you can, too! Apply now.
I asked a fellow concertgoer what to expect from Prince Rama and he stated with avid fervor: “This Baltimore music scene is badass! You’re about to go down the rabbit hole.” The spandex clad sisters kicked off their set with “Welcome to the Now Age (channeling Hyparxia)” from their 2012 album, Top 10 Hits of the End of the World, a highly conceptual collection of séance style tributes to several fictional psych-pop bands that die in the apocalypse. Front woman Taraka Larson, covered by a shroud of transparent drapery and layers of glitter, slipped into the crowd on the shoulders of Earth Universe, beckoning us to enter their mind-altering universe.
Time stood still during their lively performance, each song leaving the crowd looking stunned and breathless. The energy was palpable when Dan Deacon took the stage. The crowd cheered when he invited a young boy onstage to join him and enthusiastically chanted his name, “Charlie! Charlie!” He immediately jumped into “When I Was Done Dying” off his new album, Glass Riffer.
The vertically stacked, mechanized drums on either side of his setup provided the beats and added an additional visual layer to his eclectic and frenzied light show. The small basement didn’t leave much room for Deacon’s special brand of crowd interaction, but he tried all the same. A small circle opened up in the center of the room and people scrambled to dance like “that scene in Jurassic Park where the raptors break into the computer room” or like “a version of Game of Thrones made in a universe before the patriarchy” before it was swallowed up by light moshing and crowd-surfing. He played some top tracks off his last few albums, including “True Thrush” from 2012’s America and closed the show with “Feel the Lightning,” a pop-driven, synth heavy concoction.