Live: Man Man Brings Their “Circus Music of the Damned” to House of Vans

08/05/2011 12:17 PM |

Being wacky
  • Being wacky

Man Man, Glass Candy, Crystal Antlers
Live at House of Vans
Thursday, August 4, 2011

The House of Vans, the brand awareness and free beer depo located in an industrial blip on the hippest street in Greenpoint, is now staggering onto its home stretch, front-loaded booking petering out as the summer does. Not that the turnout for last night’s show was off. The skate ramp/plane hanger/whatever it is was full as usual, everywhere a 22-year-old in face paint. That level of specifically catered devotion might suggest that Man Man’s 2006 breakthrough Six Demon Bag was a seminal album for the 17-year-olds of that bygone era (ha, I’ll be sobbing by the Belgian fries truck). The three bands on the bill—all several cycles past their dizziest heights/hypes—were well assured and though a bit stylistically mismatched made a sort of sense in progression. Fervant fans were a nice substitute for aloof buzz-checkers. Everything was medium good. Congratulations, I’m sorry.

Crystal Antlers, who are probably wishing they were from San Francisco rather than Long Beach about now, produced an outsized, grungy squall (unhelpfully christened in my notes as “power-something”, psych probably). The guitar gallop would occasionally slow to a saunter, allowing room for an auxiliary percussionist in nothing but swim trunks (or jaunty boxers?) to really ham it up in the groovy lulls. Their latest record, Two-Way Mirror, came out less than a month ago, but it was a song announced from the stage as newer still that really got the juices flowing. It started minimally, rhythmically, before absolutely exploding to several raging catharses, with disheveled singer Jonny Bell shredding his throat incanting, “Rattlesnake…BIT ME.” Good to have your set’s best song be the one you just wrote.

Glass Candy, a disco duo from rainy Portland, have been suspiciously quiet for several years. In 2007, Italo-disco was kinda ubiquitous, a micro-trend whose ranks were sneakily inflated because producer Johnny Jewel was behind half of them. Glass Candy, arguably his best-known act with singer Ida No, released the now kinda passé but still solid B/E/A/T/B/O/X LP, and then evaporated while he played svengali for some other less-successful vocalists. There’s been no secret tinkering in the intervening time I guess, because they still came out pumping Giorgio Moroder jams, Ida vamping to the side. Her thin voice isn’t suited for long, sighing Donna Summer sustains, and so she made do with brief coos, dippy dance moves, and chippy shrieks. The shrieking, echoing out from a heavily treated mic, was particularly effective in spots, reminiscent of a brief period like a decade ago, when Ida and co. played the basements of the Northwest as a frayed nerves post-punk unit called Glass Candy & the Shattered Theatre. While the powerhouse synths on old hits like “Digital Versicolor” still have physical impact, a little more unhinged intensity could make their sound pretty interesting if they are even planning on new material (hey, I always liked “dance-punk”, actually). Those aforementioned Man Man kids still lost their shit dancing, though, so maybe it ain’t broke.

Man Man lured all courtyard stragglers back to the house (with a little help from the beverage table turning off the beer spigot, handing out coconut water). Neon lights, painted faces, balloons tied to wig-hair—the boys may have tired of matching tighty whities, but they still enjoy a maximum dose of wacky whatnot. And really, if there’s a single word that explains my aversion to the band over the years, “wacky” is it. Visuals aside, the music is several strains of stuff I don’t want; stomping boogie-woogie bar rock morphing into circus music of the damned. It sounds like a New Orleans burlesque funeral, or a scene from True Blood that takes place in a “werewolf bar”. Their affect on the crowd can’t be overstated, though. Up front there was persistent, sustained crowd surfing and synchronized leaps and yelps along with the band’s own; to the side, some slow and sloppy make-out sessions. The rumbling debauchery of it—building to energetic climaxes or slowing down to a possessed doo-wap—looked totally transporting from a remove, if you happen to resonate at that frequency. But it’s still wacky as opposed to witty, and I may be immune.

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