The seven members of My Dear Disco form a semicircle around me in the cramped dressing room of the Blind Pig and try to explain why the bar downstairs is jam packed. None of these hyperattentive and articulate twenty-somethings is smoking (anything) or drinking. The drummer, Aaron, who grew up in Prague, sits next to me spinning and flipping his drumsticks and vibrating a bit. It's like sitting next to an electrical storm.
They insist the band functions as a democracy, yet all the other members defer to Tyler Duncan, whose red pants match his hair and pork-chop sideburns. "We're all music majors," says Tyler, who was raised in Ann Arbor by artistic, hippie parents, "so we have an intellectual interest in music as well as an emotional and visceral connection. It's true fusion." He says they play ancient musical instruments coupled with current technology and literally have the best of both worlds: "We try to make music that your body will appreciate as much as your mind."
When the show starts, the lights dim and the drummer stands with his profile to the crowd, showing off his sweet mohawk. It's nearly as prominent as the five-foot-long didgeridoo he holds perpendicular to his body. He blows into it, arching his back, and a deep, rumbling call fills the bar. Tyler, who's sitting on a chair downstage, slowly coaches a wailing song from his Irish bagpipes.
This continues long enough for me to start an out-of-body experience, except I get jerked back each time someone in the crowd whistles or yells. Mad Scientist Bob, who "plays" a laptop, comes up and joins them on a bizarre little contraption he's made — a joystick connected to what appears to be a food warming plate. He's working the joystick and tapping the pad of the plate, making percussive, reverberating sounds. Aaron picks up his drumstick, still blowing on that didgeridoo, and adds a few cymbal taps to the mix. The whole scene is a freaking trip. It's trancy and brilliant and gives me hope for the future of this planet — all during the first song.
The other band members filter onstage, and the bass player moves the group, with bagpipes, into a funky groove for a good twenty minutes. At any given time there are two saxophones, three keyboards (including Bob's laptop), and four guitars playing tight, visibly professional, original songs. They call up a female singer for some reggae/techno/dreamy tunes, and that morphs seamlessly into disco. The vocal levels at the Pig are never good, but from what I can hear, she has an old-school soul-diva voice.
No matter how tired, how old, or how superior you believe yourself to be, you should see this group for yourself and experience what happens when you immerse children in the arts: they grow up to be thoughtful, considerate, intelligent, passionate adults.
My Dear Disco headlines a local music showcase at Live at PJ's on Saturday, October 6.
[Review published October 2007]