For the "eyes night" of the two-night Baltimore Round Robin tour (a second “feet night” featured a more danceable selection of artists), there was no literal circle of bands. The title of the tour described a Later… with Jooles Holland set-up in which bands appeared on five somewhat makeshift stages, all performing one song at time before moving on to the next act. All bands were from Baltimore, and the night had a cyclical theme. The metaphorical circle wasn’t perfect: The hauntingly beautiful Beach House and the delicately subtle Jana Hunter were the better half of an unequal circle that drifted, in imagination and talent as well as style, far away before returning to its supposed starting point.
The crowd’s shape shifted, as well as its interest. It was nice to move around, sometimes obtaining a better view. Staying mobile added an energy, too, an almost constant anticipation. Throughout the night, certain performers in the "weird round" created momentary lapses that kept the pace of the night from becoming constant and enjoyable. An early, sometimes-funny video by Show Beast sparked the exciting idea that anything may happen. Later, a duo of actors performed a bad trip in bad costumes and reminded those of us in the audience that, well, anything could happen — but not in a good way. As the musicians continued to outperform the performers, a feeling of hurry accompanied the artists of the weird round.
Soon, as the night began to spin and feel like a marathon of the outlandish, it became difficult to remain merely an observer. The things happening in front of you began to take you in rather than vice versa. A white curtain masked musicians who followed, with light and sound, hypnotic images behind them projected onto a large screen. A man in a Tigger suit beat-boxed to a man in a Santa/little girl outfit who played the ukulele beside a writhing octopus puppet, all of whom began to sound like the Violent Femmes. A drone from a laptop accompanied a kick-ass live drum solo, and a group of four girls called the Lexie Mountain Boys chanted while wearing tribal masks. The night began to become stranger and larger than any one piece. There was so much randomness that the comfortable acts, such as Beach House and Jana Hunter and Lesser Gonzalez Alvarez, became respites among chaotic wonders.
Oberlin rests in the cornfields of rural Ohio. Walking along the historic small town campus, I asked a girl where the student center was. She told me it was actually called the “student union.” In the basement of the union (technically callyed Wilder Hall) is the Dionysus Disco. For two nights it became a vessel for Dan Deacon’s peculiar sense of order through eclectic disorder. Like his tangled music, not all elements were pleasant — some are actually unlistenable — but as a whole the night managed to become incredibly intriguing and invasive.
The night was a representation of a Baltimore scene that cares little about defining itself beyond an attitude of caring little. Those who witnessed the round robin will one day settle down in a town and wonder what kind of scene exists. Hopefully, they’re able to form some sort of circle out of what does exist.
Tour Blog: http://roundrobinblog.tumblr.com
Photo Credit: Julian Furtak/Prefixmag.com