With a cable dangling from his mouth, Luke Fischbeck writhes in ecstasy on the floor. A desert landscape on the wall behind him morphs into flashing close-ups of trees, bushes and cacti. The speed changes with the music, a surge of electronic bass and distortion the artist controls with cables connected to his laptop.
He offers the cables to two audience members sitting beside him. Once they take them, the music and the projected images change. The cable-bearers touch their free hands to form a new connection, bending the pitch by varying the degree of touch. Each cable corresponds with a different feedback channel and note. Touching creates new frequencies and sounds, which the artist’s laptop translates into video. Fischbeck calls his interactive process ‘Make a Baby.’ It comprises his performance as Lucky Dragons.
Lucky Dragons ended their set at 8:30 p.m., a half-hour after the doors of the Pacific Ballroom opened for over 300 people on Wednesday night at the UC Irvine Student Center. On this night, KUCI and Associated Students of UCI sponsored a concert for Baltimore-based electronic musician Dan Deacon. Several other acts preceded Deacon’s solo set, including Kyle H. Mabson, Narwhalz (of sound), Abe Vigoda and Ultimate Reality.
Mabson followed Lucky Dragons after a short interlude. Like Narwhalz (of sound), Mabson was not featured on the bill. During his set, he sampled a variety of dance songs, including Aqua’s ‘Barbie Girl.’ For each song, he added a thick layer of distorted bass to the dance beat.
At 9:00 p.m, the crowd held up a shirtless kid with thick black glasses. He battled a Game Boy with a flashlight in his mouth while the surrounding speakers beeped and chirped. This was Narwhalz (of sound). The lights came on for Abe Vigoda’s set. A dancing crowd encircled the band, two guitarists, a bassist and a drummer.
The three-act multimedia performance known as Ultimate Reality started at 9:42 p.m. Two drummers, Kevin O’Meare and Jeremy Hyman, accompanied electronic music composed by Dan Deacon and a video created by Jimmy Joe Roche. With the ballroom dark again, images of Arnold Schwarzenegger as ‘Conan the Barbarian’ illuminated the wall. The actor’s image doubled and changed colors, fluctuating between orange, pink and magenta hues. The music’s tempo fluctuated in sync with the video frame rate. The video projected clips from ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day,’ ‘Predator,’ ‘Kindergarten Cop,’ and ‘Junior.’
Deacon and Roche released ‘Ultimate Reality’ on DVD before they began touring. A warning label on the back of the DVD case reads: ‘These films may cause seizures; if you suffer from seizures or epilepsy, please show this DVD to your doctor before watching.’
Fifteen minutes after the end of Ultimate Reality, Deacon was ready to start his solo set. His huge red-framed glasses matched his bright red Dickie pants. A Yoda keychain dangled from his belt loop. On the table before him, a colorful array of digital effect pedals rested beside a Casiotone keyboard. A few of his effects were self-made creations bound together by tape.
Deacon holds a master’s degree in electro-acoustic music from SUNY Purchase. He has spent the last four years in Baltimore as an active member of the artist collective Wham City. He and Roche have been collaborating since 2001.
Deacon started off with a stretching exercise for the audience.
A neon-green plastic skull hung on a microphone stand above Deacon’s keyboard. As he played, a strobe light inside the skull flashed in sync with the song’s tempo. Deacon sang in a high-pitched computer voice as the crowd danced around his table.
Later, Deacon ordered the lights turned on and instructed the crowd to spread out against the ballroom’s walls. He ordered the kid with thick black glasses to run around and give everyone a ‘high five.’ Soon, the whole crowd was running in a circuit along the ballroom’s walls. After two minutes, Deacon tried to play another song, but student center staff told him to end the show. He tried one more song against their wishes, but the staff cut him off, disabling the power to his instruments and microphone.