Typically, when one spends a prolonged period of time being overwhelmed by an outside conversation that made numerous allusions to the films of Director Wes Anderson, you can veritably conclude that you’ve quite possibly made some sort of detour into ‘hipsterville.’ This inference can only be compounded substantially once the presence of mustachioed girly men donning skinny jeans, paisley shirts bearing every color of the rainbow and the effluence of marijuana, cigarette smoke and body odor make their way to the fore, shrouding you in a compacted envelope sealed by lights, reverberating bass and music. Such was the scene at the Windish Agency’s Art Basel party at Grand Central this past Saturday, for what proved to be an eventful evening of music that drew perhaps some of the eccentric characters you’d ever see this side of Portland. The line for entry wrapped itself in serpentine fashion around the perimeter of the entrance, spanning the entire block and spilling out over to the other side of the building, a sight that belied the relative availability of space inside the cavernous venue.
Gainesville-based ensemble Hundred Waters opened up the evening with a resplendently unique dose of electronically synthesized loop sequences, synth and drum flourishes that all played against the live instrumentation and ethereal folk-infused vocals, rich with harmony and refreshing candor. Vocalist Nicole Miglis’ soaring vocals were not particularly intelligible in the wake of the intricate tapestry of sound unfurling around it, yet they yielded the sort of warm, rich complement to the music that was the glue that held the concoction together. They ran through their set succinctly, playing tracks from their acclaimed self-titled debut and departing after playing thirty to forty five minutes worth of music. If there was one recurring theme that soon began to emerge as being definitive of the performances on hand, it was brevity. Electronic maestro, Dan Deacon set up his equipment in the middle of the area that would normally be facing center stage. Rather than standing atop the elevated platform and playing to the audience, he stood amongst them, and immediately began orchestrating the antics for which his live show has become known. He immediately instructed everyone in the crowd to look at the ceiling, get down on one knee, and visualize a place in the ceiling that represented their greatest moment of cowardice and point at it.
It quickly became apparent that Deacon would be testing the very boundaries of participation, as he engaged participants, namely, a man in a top hat and another man sporting an indian headdress in a dance off, wherein they would select the people that would replace them in their spasmodic attempts at synchronized dance to the incessant beeps, belches, booms and bangs that comprise Deacon’s music. The comedic value to Deacon’s performance was indescribable, as he incited a mosh pit of sorts when he called on the audience to converge on the center of the room, a move that very nearly backfired when they converged on his table instead. “I SAID THE CENTER, YOU CRAZY MOTHERFUCKERS!” From that point on the venue resembled something along the lines of writhing organism as the assorted characters ambled in throes of dance, or at least something that resembled it. There were characters such as the transvestite dancing queen and the man in the neon-colored cape jumping up and down circling Deacon as he played such songs as his masterful epic “Wham City.” But it was all over too soon, as he departed after about an hour long set.
Once headliner Tanlines (who had replaced the initially-billed Flying Lotus) began their set at around the 2 AM mark, the venue was packed to a far lesser extent than it had been during Deacon’s spectacle, and the audience appeared just as subdued as the performers themselves, who had just played a DJ set at the Miami Art Museum immediately prior. Jesse Cohen, who provided the percussion and synthesizers on the tracks, alluded to Miami being a very special place for them, as it was here that they recorded their acclaimed debut, Mixed Emotions. Vocalist Eric Emm’s dexterous strumming on guitar melded perfectly with the billowing synth hooks, especially on their rendition of “Not the Same” and the infectious “All of Me.” While they appeared to manifest some sort of exhaustion on their faces and expressions, their playing was in no way susceptible to that fatigue. They closed out the evening on a far more relaxed note, providing some richly textured synth pop that had the right amount of sentimentality to be appealing and catchy, while providing a bit of nostalgia that is inherent in their sound, which itself is evocative of the 80’s.