Photos by Tim Toda
I first stumbled upon the music of Darwin Deez at a camping festival in England five years ago with my mom and sister. He gave a performance unlike anything we had seen before, playing exuberant pop and incorporating group dance routines. And the crowd went wild. We were entirely surprised to learn that he was Brooklyn-based, but we had never heard of him.
In the years since, I’ve waited for the day that I’d get to see Darwin in Brooklyn. Often referred to as the Napoleon Dynamite of indie pop for his small-town-oversized-glasses aesthetic, and ironic ‘80s-style dance numbers, he’s many things if not a sensational charmer. Currently working on his third LP, Darwin has established a catalog of catchy numbers featuring snappy drum machines and unconventional chord structures. It takes a careful ear to to listen closely to his lyrics, which illuminate these dance-pop anthems often as vulnerable, self-deprecating pleas for the return of a lost love. Bending his voice with rubbery elasticity, Darwin Deez wails into his falsetto range with a direct and conversational tone.
The crowd was eager to sing along to the memorable hooks, but no one in the room was as into the performance as Darwin’s backing band. Each of the three other members on stage added their own special presence; the drummer and lead guitarist provided harmonies and echoed backup vocals along with their instrumental flourishes, but none was as zestful as bassist Michelle Dorrance, aka Mash Deez, who flailed around on stage, often facing the drums, communicating and sharing her high-spirited disposition with the rest of the band, especially during the dance numbers.
Baby’s All Right was shut down as a bar that night, meaning that the entire space was reserved for Darwin’s disciples. It was a rather uppity crowd, everyone wanting to secure their spot in order to have maximum visibility, but towards the front of the room, Darwin got the dance party he deserved. Unsurprisingly, the night ended on a high note with the encore of “Radar Detector”, which probably half the crowd had been waiting for all night. Main support came from Junior Prom, an indie rock duo who brought a classic Brooklyn dance-rock vibe.