A huge crowd had already gathered outside of Rhino's by the time I arrived. Sold out, the No Deachunter (that's No Age, Dan Deacon and Deerhunter) tour apparently attracted plenty of attention - more than enough to fill the all-ages venue.
It was my first time to Rhino's and the place was smaller than I had pictured it, but had a huge stage and a great sound system. Unfortunately, the throng of people gathered around the stage made it impossible to see the show's opener Infinite Body, who introduced himself as "Kyle, from LA". Manipulating some unknown and unseen equipment on the ground (guitar and electronics?) that was also emitting multicolored light, he built his music with ethereal swaths of noise and crashing waves of distortion. It was short, but strange and cerebral - an interesting little piece of drone.
Next was White Rainbow, who apparently noticed the visibility problem and asked the audience to sit before kneeling on the stage with his guitar. Another one man drone act, his sound was similar to Infinite Body, but a bit more organic - less electronic. He kept his set short, but filled it with plenty of swells of guitar and rumbling distortion.
Next was the show's final opener, Ed Schrader, who took the stage with nothing but a big tom, a pair of drumsticks, and a crazy look in his eyes. Before I knew his show had begun, he started pounding on the drum and yelling "I think I'm a ghost" into the reverb-heavy mic. Soon, he had the whole audience singing along with his unusual but extremely enthusiastic lyrics, like the unforgettable "beautiful transvestite in the rain". No Age guitarist Randy Randall even joined him on stage for one song, and despite Schrader's over-the-top weirdness and bare bones setup he had the whole crowd eating out of his hand. Dan Deacon even seemed to be taking a video of the whole thing on his iPhone from the back of the room.
The show that followed was one of the best, and definitely most unique, I've ever seen in Bloomington. No Age, who play as a guitar/drums duo, set up stage right, with the four members of Deerhunter taking up the center and left. Deacon set up on the far right side of the audience, his multicolored electronics tangled together on top of a little folding table. It all kicked off to a pretty crazy start, with all of them playing together, then became a round robin, with Deerhunter and No Age playing on each other's songs and occasionally passing the torch to Deacon for a few songs.
One of the best collaborative live efforts I've ever borne witness to, it was like throwing three individual shows into a blender and turning it on puree without the lid on. Everything melted into one, jumping between No Age's raucous post punk (amplified by whatever members of Deerhunter were playing with them), Deerhunter's shambling, stoned-out indie rock, and Deacon's glitchy dance party. It was almost sensory overload, with the audience's attention snapping quickly from the stage to a spot 90 degrees to their right to see Deacon's flashing, trippy green skull and strobe lights.
And that's not all Deacon had up his sleeve - at one point, he asked the audience to face the center of the room with their hands in the air. Then, he asked us all to slowly put our hands on the heads of the people in front of us and think of a loved one and a time we had deceived them. He told us to feel the guilt and slowly increase the pressure on the heads in front of us before finally breaking into the euphoric "Snookered".
Soon after was one of the show's highlights, with the bands playing a colossal, spaced out version of one of my favorite Deerhunter songs, "Nothing Ever Happened". Bradford Cox even managed to pull off one of rock's most difficult stage moves: crowd surfing while continuing to play. It was, like the whole show, really really loud, a huge and imposing wall of sound threatening to crush us all.
Then, Dan Deacon took over again and asked for all the fluorescent overhead lights to be turned on and the crowd to make a big circle and take a knee. Randy Randall stepped in like it was his first night of Fight Club, but led the audience in an interpretive dance that slowly brought us all to our feet as the music built. Eventually, Deacon called for lights out, and the whole thing turned back into a crazy dance party, the rowdy audience nearly toppling the tower of lights that held Deacon's green skull.
And Deacon's plans for us didn't stop there; the bands left the stage for his grand finale, and Deacon lined up a few people touching hands above their heads to make a short tunnel. Then, he got everyone into conga line of sorts to go through it, only telling us that once we passed through the tunnel, we had to line up to make it longer on the other side. Each person who went through added a new piece to the tunnel, with the whole thing going out the side door and back in the front until it created one long, unbroken chain. Again, the sound built and built from Deacon's speakers until people couldn't help but break from the tunnel to reform the mob. At the music's roaring peak, all the lights and sounds stopped at one perfect, distinct point.
Then, the band's retook the stage, and Deacon stepped up as well. A huge, spacey jam that must've been improvised followed, and Deacon did a marvelous stage dive/crowd surf before falling down to dance with the audience. Randall even sent his guitar for a surf - still plugged in, people were clawing at the strings and pushing it all around the front of the stage. Randall seemed unconcerned, and picked up the bass as Deerhunter's bassist threw water on the crowd.
Finally, the monster of a show was over. Deacon apologized to whoever he kicked in the face while crowd surfing and all of the artists thanked everyone for coming, and Rhino's for putting on such a crazy show. Drenched in sweat, I rubbed my ringing ears as I walked back into the Bloomington night. Satisfied, stupefied, and impressed, I made my way back to quieter places.