[26 August 2009]
With the humid East Coast summer in full effect, South Jersey really needed an event like this. Party attendees were linked to last minute directions and advice before the show—the venue’s first ever—at the Flying W Airport & Resort. First of all, we were told that, “yes this really is a functioning pool!” We were also told that the bands—Dan Deacon, Deerhunter, and No Age—would be playing “In the Round,” also known as “Round Robin”, a concept that has been done before, but never with these three bands.
The guests were a mix of familiar faces that I could swear I had seen before. Seemingly, everyone from the neighborhood was present. There were even a few families in attendance. The Michael Stipe look-a-like was there, as were the older couple on the deck who got angry when I sat in front of them, the friendly heavy-set man wearing pink bikini bottoms, the girl who resembles Ali Youngblood from the Black Kids, and every variation of free spirit/hipster/whatever-you-want-to-call-it these days that the area has to offer. Everyone was welcome. Some guests came on buses from Philadelphia. Others traveled by car from out of state. All guests, upon arrival, were introduced to the multitude of pleasures offered by the Flying W Airport & Resort—seemingly South Jersey’s new summer oasis.
People who showed up for the summertime spoils—the airplane-shaped pool, cheap drinks, the beach volleyball court, the barbecue, and the water ice stand—were handed the ultimate South Jersey summer experience. People who traveled to Medford to hear a solid batch of songs from three of music’s most exciting performers were not disappointed either. Hearing the songs in random order merely made the whole event even more fun.
It helped that the bands enjoyed it as well. Staged in a semi-circular fashion—No Age in front of an operational airstrip, Dan Deacon in a tree house, and Deerhunter on a deck in front of the bar—each group showed support for the other. Deacon, in the spirit of friendship, wore a black-and-white No Age T-shirt. “Want to get some water ice?” shouted No Age’s Dean Spunt to Deerhunter’s amiable Bradford Cox mid-set.
Deerhunter started off the Round Robin off with an ear-shattering “Cryptograms”, sending seismic waves all the way to the Jersey shore—probably helping out a surfer or two when it got there. Sonically and viscerally, No Age fared the best. There was something euphoric about seeing a yellow A-4 Skyhawk aircraft taking off as No Age launched into sizzling Weirdo Rippers opener “Every Artist Needs a Tragedy”.
For some, Deacon’s tracks blend together into a seamless electro-mishmash in a live setting. But for others, each segment is a new reason to go a little crazier. “Snookered” was particularly endearing as Deacon encouraged the crowd to “raise [their] hands and notice [their] surroundings and put [their] hand son the people in front of [them].” By the time Deacon slipped into “Baltihorse”, he had ordered the construction of a tunnel of frenzied fans that snaked around the gazebo and reached the beach-volleyball court. Deerhunter’s “Spring Hall Convert”, enhanced by a miasma of smoke rising from the grills into the sunset, led into No Age’s “Eraser”, which was followed by “Everybody’s Down”. During this song Dean Spunt began making airplane noises and counting down before crowd surfing while still playing his guitar.
The set ran about thirty songs between bands, ending with Deacon’s “Wham City”, which was played with green skull in tow and a blow-up dinosaur surfing the crowd. Bradford Cox announced a bus departing at 9:30 pm to take the school kids back to Philly, before launching into a searing “Nothing Ever Happened” that finished things off.
If anything came out of the challenging setup, it is that these guys are human. The whole “concept” didn’t run as smoothly as it could have and as the sun started to go down, things lulled a little with several awkward pauses between songs. Anyone expecting the Dan Deacon Bromst Symphony seen on his last tour would also have been disappointed.
But these are minor issues. Throughout the set, fans swarmed from station to station to witness each band perform each track. The whole day had the aura of a classic family event, but one spent with friends rather than Uncle Fred. Deacon ended the show by apologizing for being awkward and nervous, thanking the entire production staff, and encouraging the attendees to “think about the group rather than the self.” Cox expressed his excitement at pulling off a show that no one thought would or could actually happen. “Anyone want to start a prayer group or teach knitting?” he asked as the night wavered. Let’s do this again sometime.