Man Man’s band uniform is a nice, bright, clinically insane white on white. They have a string of lit up eyeballs draped from their keyboard. The Philadelphia collective’s recent release Six Demon Bag is the sort of album you’d get if you took a crew of drunken pirates and weaned them on pop tunes, gypsy polka, and the demented, augmented interval passages of Mothers of Invention. You know, your typical band next door, trying to do that rock thing. Which made it all the more delicious to hit an NYU room the size of a high school auxiliary auditorium for a set of their rum-drenched waltzes and prog-funk freak outs.
In a forty minute Man Man set, you’re gonna get one, maybe two breaks, and next to no banter. You have a Rhodes-playing lead man named Honus Honus … at his disposal: a gravel-pit forethroat and a serious “mous-tache mous-tache mous-tache,” as one of the tunes reminds us. He’s your circus leader, whipping around coiled plastic tubes, all raspy voice and animated eyeball stares. Directly facing him, lining the stage front, is the spastic facial contortion of drummer Pow Pow. He’s the jumpy sort, running across stage, springing onto his drum chair and back down to bash away in perfect time. You’ll find him mid-groove, uncontrollably cracking up at the prospect of being handed a tiny, orange plastic gun. He’ll shoot his men men with it between beats, and he’ll still pulverize the twisted shuffle of tunes like “Black Mission Goggles” and “Push the Eagle’s Stomach.”
The rest of the gang lines up behind Honus and Pow, all facial hair, glasses and cartoonish, falsetto-voiced holler-backers. Banging on cans. Gypsy horns and headbands. And while this crew and their kazoos are busy filling out the sound space, Honus and Pow are leading the charge, facing each other, locking stares and laughing at their manic pop.
The band’s lunacy had a group near stage cluster hugging, swaying to the swashbuckling shanties, petting strangers and mouthing every word. These kids were in ecstasy (or on it). Either way they were rolling, getting off on a night of frenetic theatrics, tight tunes and toy gun fun. And imagine, the NYU kids got to see this kick-ass set for a two dollar subsidy! Now that’s a use of tuition a Man could get behind.
For the uninitiated, here’s an MP3 of the demented waltz that kicked off an unforgettable evening.
Man Man – “Feathers” (MP3 Link Expired)