Dan Deacon plays electronic music, but not exactly the kind that you will find headlining the exorbitant dance parties down in Miami’s Art Basel this week. His work resists the massive bass skronks and the strategic crescendos and peaks of modern electronic dance music in favor of beats that rise and then tumble like marbles rolling downhill. His compositions are more Philip Glass than Skrillex, only if Glass’ repetitive structures were significantly faster and more fidgety, and were accompanied by vocals from the Munchkins in “The Wizard of Oz.” It’s goofy stuff, but undeniably pleasurable.

When Deacon last played SPACE Gallery in 2011, he set up his gear in the on the floor and let the crowd form a circle around him. This approach created a communal environment unlike most shows, as if he were bringing the feel of a massive festival down to a DIY, punk-rock level of intimacy. In terms of pure fun, it was one of the best concerts in Portland in the past five years.

On Wednesday evening, he eschewed that setup – leaving it to local synth-pop duo Mr. NEET in the opening set – and took the stage with a drummer.

Deacon is touring behind “Gliss Riffer,” an album that emphasizes vocals a bit more than his past work, but his stage performance was roughly the same as his last visit to Portland. He led the audience through various exercises, such as a dance contest and a “follow the leader” routine, which were once more enthusiastically, uninhibitedly embraced.

In a city of Portland’s size, there is something special about seeing a roomful of familiar faces all experiencing joy simultaneously – this feeling is stoked in part by Deacon’s directions to audience members to face each other, hold hands or high five.

The music leaned heavy on material from “Gliss Riffer,” and the drummer helped strengthen the songs, which lean on beats that march purposefully ahead. Deacon sung quite a lot, gesticulating wildly with his off hand and filtering his voice until he sounded like one of the Chipmunks or an army of evil robots. The songs tend to stack melodies on top of one another, occasionally flattening out into noise as a kind of release.

The concert began with Deacon instructing audience members to visualize their anxieties as a crystal and then crushing that crystal. The concert closed with him asking them to visualize the faces of the people they love and miss the most, coupled with a plea for empathy in others – a welcome message on a day in which people’s news sources and social-media feeds were lit up with stories of yet another mass shooting.

The next morning the anxiety no doubt returned for many, but a few hours’ reprieve was nice.

Robert Ker is a freelance music writer in Portland, where he and his wife own the vintage store Find. Contact him at:

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Twitter: @bobbker