B.O.M.B. Fest 2011: Dan Deacon

Above: Dan Deacon led an audience-wide dance party at B.O.M.B. Fest on Saturday, May 28, 2011. (Photo/Adriana Sánchez)

So what exactly is a human dance tunnel supposed to look like?

Electronic dance wizard Dan Deacon laid out his vision, and it looked something like this: from the front of the Budweiser Stage to the top of the concrete staircase leading to the Comcast Theatre bandhshell, hundreds of B.O.M.B. Fest attendees stood in parael rows, locking hands above their heads as a stream of people shimmied through the mass.

But just before kicking off the audience-wide dance party, the pied piper of blip had just one more rule: “Safety first, everybody! Safety first!”

Deacon, whose choreographed, synth-spastic boogie processionals have earned him legions of head-smashing fans, bases his idea on a unique philosophy: the wall between artist and audience should be torn down.

“When I perform solo, I’m playing back and forth with the audience,” said Deacon, who performed at B.O.M.B. Fest Saturday. “It’s not about watching me; it’s about the audience watching each other and letting lose.”

The seeds of Deacon’s crowd-participatory phenomenon were planted nearly 10 years ago, when the artist played for fellow students at SUNY Purchase College, his alma mater. It was a chance for Deacon to experiment with “different sounds and approaches,” he said.

Since then, the 29-year-old Baltimore resident has taken those underground parties to larger stages, where he’s brought riot-sized crowds in on the fun. And while Deacon wields considerable sway, the real power “lies with the audience,” he said.

“You can’t make hundreds of people form a dance tunnel,” he said. “They have to do that on their own.”

Scott Gargan