One of the many, many, many things I loved about my alma mater, USC, was the sheer amount of musical talent that regularly graced campus. The first time I saw M83 live was at Ground Zero, USC’s performance cafe. Daytime Keane concert at Tommy Trojan? Yea, I ditched a calculus lecture for that. Then there was that free Jimmy Eat World concert on the quad for Conquest, our annual rivalry week football rally. And this was all in my freshman year.
Among the power players in USC’s thriving, multi-genred music scene is KXSC (formerly known as KSCR), the non-profit, donation-funded radio station run by the students of USC, for the students of USC. Its biggest annual event, KXSC Fest, has hosted numerous up and comers, including Thee Oh Sees, The Growlers, Flying Lotus, and Nosaj Thing. Whether or not I’d be joining this year’s event wasn’t really much of a question, but Dan Deacon’s placement on the lineup settled the deal for me.
After scarfing down my dinner of honey-garlic fried chicken wings from the Ludotruck, I made my way into the swank new Ronald Tutor Campus Center and down to its basement where the event was taking place. Electronic duo Nguzunguzu was playing on stage, which, in hindsight, was the backing track to my first time seeing the ballroom in the basement. Large stage? Check. Great sound? Check. Free coffee? Check. Dancing robot? Check. Booth with trippy visuals and accompanying light refracting glasses on steroids on sale? Check.
I had stumbled into some sort of bizarro wonderland.
Gothic singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe took the stage next and unleashed a strangely euphoric yet unmistakably eerie spell on the crowd. Her music, a haunting lullaby with tinges of rock, was an abrupt but welcome change from the heart-pumping electronic music that preceded it.
But nothing could prepare the room for the ridiculousness that was about to befall it when experimental electronic amalgam artist Dan Deacon took the stage. His setup, a jumbled mix of rainbow-colored cables on an equally flamboyant console, was laid on on the actual dancefloor so he could be at equal level with the audience. What followed was a ridiculous mix of psychedelic tunes, uninhibited dancing, shaman-esque words of wisdom from Dan Deacon, and a game of Simon Says if Simon had been candy flipping.
For one of his songs, Deacon had the audience form a circle with two attendees in the center who were locked in what can be best described as a dance off with ADD. They would tag in unsuspecting audience members to battle it out, and the new duo would then go on to select new victims.
With everyone still in a circle, Deacon pulled in two people at random and instructed one half of the crowd to mimic the movements of one of the randomly selected audience members while the other half of the room mimicked the other’s. I don’t think I will ever forget the sight of half of the room worming on the floor while the other half was vigorously pelvic thrusting. And I’m not sure I want to.
Other hijinks included the formation of a snake around the room and an entire crowd running in a circle around the venue at top speed (which, surprisingly, didn’t result in any serious injuries) before running in slow motion to close out one of Deacon’s tracks. I particularly enjoyed the track that utilized his smartphone app, which projected flashing colors onto everyone’s phones in time to the music to make a frenetic, moving lightshow.
Genre-wise, Deacon is hard to pin down. If I had to call it something, I would say it’s an exercise in experimental electronica with tinges of absurdity and positivity. He’s undoubtedly a gifted musician in his own right, but beyond that, he possesses a gift for working the crowd, lowering their inhibitions, and setting off an explosion of total outrageousness that the audience is more than happy to revel in obediently.
Final verdict: KXSC Fest 2013 was a blast.
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