Blood, glitter, and jizz | Music Feature | Chicago Reader

Blood, glitter, and jizz 

Outrageous gay synth-pop band Daan have reinvented themselves as Baathhaus—but they haven't forgotten where they came from

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"It's this really accessible, weird performance art," says Big Dipper, a local queer rapper and frequent collaborator. "They're funny, they're dramatic, you can tell they're having a really good time doing what they want." He's done a lot of jobs for the band—stage manager, artistic consultant, live videographer—and Foley has produced some of the MC's music and backed him onstage.

From the beginning Daan had it in mind that no two shows would be the same—each one would debut a new narrative. "We were generating new songs for most of those shows, new choreography, new costuming," Young says. "Everything was new for every show, which sort of kept us excited for a little bit." The group would create intricate backstories for their characters after hitting upon an idea; the Salonathon Halloween show came out of a conversation about campy 80s vampire movie The Lost Boys.

At nearly every Daan show, someone would approach the band about another date. The band gigged during Pride weekend, did a couple fund-raisers for About Face Theatre, and played at quasi-underground fringe spaces (Reversible Eye Gallery), traditional venues (Elbo Room, Town Hall Pub), and nightclubs (Berlin). One of Daan's first dates at Berlin was a 2010 Lollapalooza preparty headlined by Lady Gaga's tour DJ, Lady Starlight. In May 2010, About Face marketing director Jane Beachy booked Daan for an art party at Gold Coast salon Studio 110; she later became the group's manager and snagged them an opening slot with Diamond Rings at the Bottle in March 2011. That show went over so well, Beachy says, that it helped her secure a Monday-night spot at Beauty Bar for Salonathon, which she launched in summer 2011.

At first Foley focused on music, Andrews on choreography, and Young on direction, but as Daan evolved those roles blurred. The majority of the band's recordings (which they posted on Soundcloud) used multiple tracks of Foley's vocals, rather than singing from all three like the live show, and he handled most of the instruments too. By the middle of 2011, though, that began to change. Andrews says the turning point came when he contributed lyrics to "Cave Song," a sprawling trance number. "That song was one of our first that really started to come from all three of us," he says.

Soon Daan decided they wanted to be a bit more like a band—less theatrical, more about playing music live. "We feel pretty solid in the performance aspect and that people are engaged, but we also have this desire to have people dance," Foley says. Last fall they reached out to Hozeny, whom they'd met through Beachy, but then their lives got so hectic that they had to step away from Daan before they could start working with him.

Andrews was in the Goodman Theatre's staging of Red, which took him to the east coast at the beginning of 2012. Daan didn't have time for their usual full-bore productions, and after an acoustic set for a friend's birthday at Town Hall Pub in March, they decided to take a break. Andrews returned to Chicago in April, but at that point he had a role in the Goodman's The Iceman Cometh, a nearly five-hour play; the hiatus stretched into the summer. The three of them never doubted that they'd revive the band, but Foley, who describes himself as anxious, didn't mind not having to deal with the pressure to perform. "Thinking that we'll never do a show again, I actually didn't feel that bad," he says.

After Iceman wrapped Daan had a couple intense sessions to figure out a new direction for the group. That's when they settled on the change to Baathhaus—it wasn't tied to just one member's name, and the double "a" was a tip of the hat to "Daan."

In early September they recruited Hozeny as a full-time member, and since then they've been practicing three times a week, learning how to perform material that they previously used only as canned tracks. "That is something we've never done before," Andrews says. "It feels very vulnerable and very kind of exactly what we're trying to do—like, push ourselves in a sort of uncomfortable spot to see what comes out of that." According to Hozeny, it's going well. "I've been really surprised by how much the deconstruction process has then led to a more organic thing," he says.

Baathhaus regrouped without a show lined up to prepare for, but then Diamond Rings announced another date at the Bottle and they jumped on it. They aren't too worried about sorting out what they'll do after that gig, even though big changes are afoot. Young plans to move to New York in April, but nobody seems to think it'll break up the band; Young is optimistic that it'll help Baathhaus get booked on the east coast.

For now they're keeping they're heads down, focusing on the Diamond Rings show—it'll be their first time playing their music live, and it's sure to be a challenge for them to maintain their signature theatrics too. They wouldn't say exactly what the show's going to be like—they don't want to ruin the big reveal—but they drop hints.

"There'll definitely be fake blood," Young says.

"Some fake blood, some glitter probably," Andrews says.

"Possibly glitter," agrees Young.

"Maybe some semen," adds Andrews.

"Maybe a little jizz," Young says. "Who knows."

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