Gang Gang Dance
Dan DeaconEdit this event
- Cargo, London »
It'd be fair to say that Upset! The Rhythm have attracted their fair share of love of late - a love not least chronicled in the labyrinthine annals of DiS (click). Now, they're getting more - applause, please, for their choice of venue for Gang Gang Dance. Not for the technical problems that drew the band's sound check out for three hours - a third of which Tim DeWitt spent banging his drums, long and sullen - but for Cargo's air vents, hanging pipes and brickwork. I've never seen the Brooklyn basements where the quartet practice (never seen Brooklyn), but I reckon Gang Gang would've come acquainted quick in this bridge-bound catacomb.
First through the arches goes the ridiculous Dan Deacon. Pitching up in front of the stage, eyes level with but staring through us, Deacon fiddles with the cat ears on his cap. Getting mic right, there's a launch into chat about Prince and purple rings and things I don't remember anything about now except that they had the audience grazing from his clammy palm. Still, London arms x'd for the set, except for the small coven that girdle him decks left. A neon-green skull grins on a pole stage centre; flashing when Dan's gabba-snares kick extra fierce.
This happens a lot. 'Snake Mistakes', 'The Crystal Cat', 'Big Big Big Big Big'. Absurd, melting, sherbet shards that leak out through Deacon's cracked mind all over the electrics; tripping fuses and flooding circuit boards full of mutant goo. Countdown! Sitdown! Strobes pulse. There are repeated calls for "sass". Things fall apart, or by any means a halt is called, three-quarters of the way through and the crowd are told to "move out and form a big circle... try to do it like you're nervous and slightly afraid".
The famed tag-dance pit climbs out of the earth in London. 'Chris' is the first one to bounce around the circle, and he performs admirably - "more sass!" - under the pressure. Some flee on tagging, but most are eager enough with their ankles to avoid the disasterpit of rubbished self-esteem. The circle collapses in on itself when Deacon gets bored and reels us in for a sing-along. "Silence like the wind overtakes me! Oooo-oo-ooo-oooo!" Empathy in the absurdity. Things are epic until the track reverts to type and starts flailing like a rat in a drowning cage; Deacon wrenching his voice into rabid ape shrieks and stupid consonants.
Normally I'd hate these wackyisms, but for the way they seem so natural. Reinforced by spontaneity, Deacon is popular because it quickly becomes clear that he's not putting it on, this is standard for him, it's just how his brain works and he's gonna show us all how fun it can be to have the brain of a stoned puppy lost at the edge of town.
I wait it out for the top-billed, but give in to British rail timetables halfway through. Shouting through reeling strips of abandoned guitars I ask Charles Ubaghs to carry the conch from here on in.
Strange, hypnotic, and with songs seemingly devoid of structure yet incredibly concise in their execution, Gang Gang Dance take to the stage facing an audience still half aglow in the post-coital bliss of Dan Deacon’s interactive performance. While some would falter in the wake of such a crowd-pleasing opener, the Brooklyn-based quartet simply turn up their electronics, strap on the six strings, break out the drums and launch into their iconoclastic assault on art rock's tested traditions.
Translating the percussion-heavy sounds of their recorded work into an enchanting live spectacle, frontwoman Liz Bougatsos focuses the group’s sonic array into a captivating force with her ethereal voice. Yet it’s the pounding drum work of Tim DeWitt (whose work with GGD’s keyboardist Brian Degraw in earlier noise outfit the Cranium is well worth tracking down) that comes across as the key ingredient to GGD’s unique sound. His tribal-influenced drumming brilliantly straddles a bizarre gateway between world music, musique concrete and fuzz-tinged dance.
The crowd quickly warms to their blistering avant-rock and by the end of a set that sees GGD perform highlights from the excellent God’s Money and their upcoming full length, they’re loudly clamouring for more. Guitarist Josh Diamond answers the people’s calls and returns without the rest of the band. Choosing a young gent from the audience, he proceeds to invite the lad on stage to pound out a basic beat on Bougatsos’ small drum kit. While the new recruit maintains his rhythm, Diamond finds a willing volunteer who proves to be surprisingly capable on drums, a lanky guitarist who does his best to keep up with all the noise and a hip young lady who backs everything up with a tambourine. It’s an odd yet effective combination that’s amplified by Bougatsos and Degraw, who come back on to lead their temporary band members in a free-form jam.
And somehow the entire impromptu ensemble works. Maybe it’s by accident, maybe it’s by sheer luck or maybe it’s just because GGD are one of those groups truly open to new ideas. Either way, in an age plagued with identikit rockers endlessly mining all too familiar terrain, it’s a damn nice thing to see on Cargo’s small stage.
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