Review: Dana Buoy performs at DC9

Dana Janssen. )Credit: Dana Buoy)
Dana Janssen. )Credit: Dana Buoy)

WASHINGTON, October 23, 2014 – Dana Buoy is the solo project alter ego of Akron/Family drummer-vocalist Dana Janssen. His stint as a solo act likely didn’t arise due to any distance from Akron/Family, except, perhaps, in a literal sense.

His current project began because Janssen moved out to Portland, while other members of Akron/Family have relocated elsewhere from their Brooklyn locale as well.

In Janssen’s case, we can presume he needed something to recharge his songwriting batteries. From that point, like any solid musician, he decided to take his new material on the road, which is why he found himself performing at DC9 recently.

It’s important to reiterate that Dana Buoy results largely from physical rather than musical and philosophical distance from the rest of Akron/Family when discussing Janssen’s solo manifestation. On a musical and even a thematic level, there isn’t much difference between Dana Buoy and Janssen’s regular gig, just that what he’s performing and producing now actually happens to be entirely his own creation.

In a nutshell, that was the huge difference watching Dana Janssen perform on stage at DC9 along with his drummer as Dana Buoy. What the audience heard here is the exact same sound he’s helped craft for nearly a decade now.

It’s soon obvious that this tour isn’t really a way for Janssen to separate himself from his previous group efforts. It’s just a continuation of the same ideas and themes in a different format. After everything in his set blends into a cohesive series of songs, it becomes even more obvious that the sound you hear is one he’s still committed to no matter how far he is from his other bandmates.

Word is that Dana Buoy was inspired by Janssen’s move to Portland and his discovery of a new romance. That’s certainly a good place to start when trying to create any sort of new material.

This background became apparent during his set at DC9, where his performance possessed a lighter bounce than one would have recalled from his previous sets with Akron/Family. It’s not as if a weight has been lifted from his shoulders, but rather as if something unmistakable is lifting him up instead.

Still, anyone familiar with Janssen won’t exactly be trying to regain his or her bearings listening to Dana Buoy. That’s because the freak folk sound Janssen likely helped popularize is still there—just a bit more stripped down.

Everything seems to be a touch subtler when Janssen performs on his own. While pop flourishes remain in his solo act, they don’t seem quite as heavy and thick as before.

The key difference in Dana Buoy’s focus on Janssen is fairly obvious. His solo performances have a different quality then they do when he’s performing with Akron/Family, a band that prides itself on the quality of the vocal harmonies among its three members. This was a quite noticeable difference after he performed several of his songs here.

Ultimately, this “band of one” was probably the main point of launching Dana Buoy. As much as mixes in newly romantic material in his current sets, under the surface Dana Buoy and this tour – and possibly future tours – are ultimately all about him.

Is Janssen becoming self-absorbed? Not likely. Listening to his songs makes it reasonably clear he might have needed to focus on himself at least for a time in order to make a positive push forward in his career.

In Dana Buoy, he’s not venturing out to create a new sound and/or even distancing himself from his band. Instead, he’s trying to forge a new identity in his new city with a separate cast of characters that can only benefit his music in the future.

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