Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Live Review: Man Man (Now With Photographic Evidence!)

March 26th, 2007

The Record Bar

Kansas City, MO

Last night, one of the concerts I was most anticipating finally had its night. I've been lucky enough to see the Philadelphia quintet twice before, so I knew of the semi-organized chaos that they bring to their live shows, and believe me I was more than ready to be a part of it. Seeing Man Man live is like listening to Olivia Tremor Control's Black Foliage album, but if they had been on coke and psychedelics instead of pot and psychedelics, and maybe took some influence from the Mae Shi.

The band rarely stops playing, and as a result the show is more like one big giant medley. The band is also very percussive, and at times all five of them will be playing some sort of snare, tom, cymbal, or anything they can reach with a stick or a mallet. Man Man's records are so subdued by comparison that I honestly never listen to them. Why bother? Whether you're a longtime fan or have no clue who I'm writing about, seeing Man Man live is the best way to go.

But as a reader of my blog, you're probably going to conclude that not knowing much about the band is a bad thing. Who wants to read a live review that mentions no specific song titles, people's names, lyrics, or anything remotely having to do with, you know, a concert. I know this may propose a problem for some, and for that, I apologize.

However, if you are okay with generic statements (Man Man rocks), and fuzzy recollections of this drunken audience member's night at the Record Bar, then by all means, read on.

Regardless of my being a horrible "journalist", I still stand by my belief that Man Man is not a band you have to appreciate on record to appreciate live. Hell, my first time seeing then was also my first time hearing them. I went to the Jackpot in Lawrence two years ago to check them out because I had read a little blurb in the upcoming concerts section of The Pitch that compared the band to the Arcade Fire. The show was poorly attended, the band went on late, and they sounded nothing like the Arcade Fire. Of course, I had a blast, and not once did it bother me that I was completely foreign to their music. Man Man are so entertaining live - just go ahead and try to keep a straight face while watching five grown men in matching white outfits meow along to a song - that just showing up wanting to have a good time is probalby more important than anything else.

As I mentioned before, Man Man's live shows can be chaotic, but the band is so tight that they can pull it off. After seeing them live 3 times now, I doubt there's much improvisation, but there is a lot of skill and practice involved to nail down their sound.

Often times you can see lead Man Honus Honus (see, I know one name!) making fierce eye contact with his band mates, anticipating the jump from a slow, swampy, Captain Beefheart style song to a full on rock song (well, as full on rock as Man Man gets).

Further proof of Man Man's live chops came midway into the set when Honus Honus' keyboard became inaudible. Something with one of the connections went haywire, and he had to play a few songs without it. These songs, incidentally or otherwise, were some of the most percussion heavy songs in the set, and no one seemed to either notice or miss what has become the signature instrument in the band's sound. In fact, with Honus Honus free to roam the stage a little more, the crowd went absolutely batshit crazy. The show may have been under attended, but the audience more than made up for it in participation, and for once Girlfriend and I were not the only ones dancing. Most of the audience was throwing their hands in the air like they were possessed by God or the devil, or whatever spirit that lies within the sounds created by four people playing drums and a manic frontman with war paint on his face.

I may have lost all credibility with this post, but take my word for this kids: Man Man may not be the best live band, but they are one of the most entertaining live bands. For a cheap thrill (the show was a meager $8), a Man Man concert should not be missed.

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