Review: Darwin Deez @ Thekla

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By Takashi Kitano, MSc Social and Cultural Theory

On the slightly belated 10th anniversary of his breakthrough self-titled album, Darwin Deez (2009), American indie artist Darwin Deez took to Thekla to play his danceable setlist in full, which kept the crowds bodies and emotions moving.

After having handed in all my essays, I had sought some freedom from the cumulative stress. Despite not having been that into him before the concert, my instinct told me that Darwin Deez could help me out here.

Surprisingly, the performance was opened by Youth Sector, a five-piece band from Brighton. At a glance, their outfits of navy jackets over salmon-pink shirts made me guess they'd be singing pop tracks. But they turned out to be a rock band who were excellent at creating a lively atmosphere through a range of interactive devices with the crowd, including call-and-response and pause-and-resume attractions. Presumably, they were new to most of the audience, but they certainly sparkled in the cargo-ship music house before the emergence of the protagonist.

A backing track brought Darwin Deez onstage, followed by the rest of the band. Instead of picking up each tuned instrument, interestingly, Darwin reckoned they were going to add a dance break before singing: ‘Occasional dance breaks really help us reset the stage and our minds, and we hope you also have some fun’. They danced in a choreographic fashion to heavy EDM, which mounted the audience's enthusiasm.

They used the energy to launch into one of the band’s iconic songs, ‘Constellations’, which rhythmically starts with ‘twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are’. The song is dreamy as it repeatedly questions ‘Is a constellation just a consolation?’. Dark blue fluorescent lamps and bright dot lighting effectively created a themed space as if we were looking up at numerous stars in the night sky. Coupled with these effects, his sweet voice shined on the lyrics.

Credit: Takashi Kitano

After playing hits such as clappy ‘Up In The Clouds’ and floating ‘The Bomb Song’, the set list then segued into most popular track ‘Radar Detector’. As soon as the jangly guitar intro began with the tambourine, the band immediately created a whirlpool of joy in the sea of heads of the crowd.

To play the album in full and to close the evening, they picked up ‘Bad Day’ and ‘The Suicidal Song’, plus some ceremonial encores. The gig was over with a big smile and applause. Getting off the ship, I chatted to another gig-goer. He had also just discovered Darwin, and similar to my impression, said ‘Darwin’s music stands out in its danceable features’. He also mentioned that their music is a kind of ‘contemporary twee-pop: they seem to represent indie’s tradition of pop-crusted and lo-fi music while inserting electronic tunes and strong lyrics’.

Featured image: Takashi Kitano


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