As Dan Deacon, Deerhunter, and No Age stepped onstage for the first of two round robin sets at New York City's Brooklyn Bowl on Sunday night, one reverent concertgoer summed it up best.
"Oh, man," she said to a friend. "It's like they're three gods, combining as one impenetrable force."
They were really more like seven gods -- eight if you count Deacon's light-up green skull -- but she was right on target with the "impenetrable force" part. It was a powerhouse of a set, a little less than an hour long and full of flashing lights and frenetic madness.
Both bands and Deacon crowded onto the tiny stage and performed together, taking turns playing their own songs and sometimes contributing to each other's music a reverb-saturated guitar lick here, an inhuman howl there.
Deacon brought the manic electronica; Deerhunter -- led by spindly frontman Bradford Cox -- brought the ambient art rock; and No Age's Randy Randall and Dean Spunt brought the noise.
The 600 or so people alternately thrashing and swaying on the beer-sticky floor in front of the stage were definitely there to worship. Many had waited hours in the rain while the concert, originally supposed to be held along the Williamsburg waterfront earlier that afternoon, was put into limbo by thunder and lightning. Many more had waited hours in the hot sun after the show was moved to Brooklyn Bowl -- ironically, just as the rain was starting to clear up -- and doors were pushed back to 6 p.m., then 7 p.m.
Sweaty and exhausted, perhaps delirious, they allowed each act to command them -- beginning with opener Ed Shraeder, a skinny man dressed all in white who, with a devilish grin, banged on a single drum so hard that the veins on his neck popped out and led the crowd in chanting strange verses like "Beautiful transvestite in the rain" and "Come with me to Egypt," even, at one point, directing them to stare up at one of the giant ceiling fans as he sang its praises with Gospel-like devotion.
For his part, Deacon guided the crowd toward a disco ball in the center of the room and asked everyone to put their hands on top of the head of the person in front of them and rock back and forth, then slowly lower down to their knees and come back up again. Later, before a particularly loud, energetic, and strobe-lit version of his song "Snookered," he asked everyone to move toward the walls and let a single, randomly-picked guy in a mustard-colored shirt lead them in a slow, bizarre interpretive dance. While none of this is unusual for a Deacon show, this crowd seemed particularly eager to participate, huge, druggy smiles on their faces as they followed his directions without even the slightest bit of hesitation.
The night's real religious moments, however, came during collaborations among the three acts on stage. Deacon's lush electronic effects proved to be the perfect backdrop to No Age's "Miner"; meanwhile, Deacon's "Crystal Cat" was enhanced by a spastic guitar performance from Cox and plenty of ear-splitting feedback from No Age. Those instances of simultaneous cross-genre harmony and discord were what gave the show its energy and ultimately made it well worth the wait.
And the energy didn't leave with the final song -- after joining forces to perform No Age's "Everybody's Down" and Deerhunter's "Nothing Ever Happened," the group left the stage for a quick break before coming back out to do it all over again, this time for a second wave of 600 fans who had waited out the rain, the heat, and the first set, all for their turn to genuflect.