21 March 2008

Back to the Cave from Whence We Came

Man Man,
The Village Tavern, Mt Pleasant, SC - March 7, 2008

Behind my back and during several conversations with respected friends, I have heard whispers of the group called Man Man. I never knew who or what they were, let alone what their music sounded like. A few years ago, before I was a Charleston native, I spotted them on the calendar at The Village Tavern and told a pseudo-friend/colleague of mine. His reaction bordered on spastic and made me a bit uncomfortable and nervous in our cramped office quarters.

I suppose his reaction has always resided somewhere in my subconscious and etched a mental note to perhaps see Man Man one day, but preferably to pick up one of their albums. The mental note went untended and, in truth, I trekked to Mt Pleasant to see openers The Felice Brothers more than anything (whom I missed that afternoon at a Monster Music instore performance...long story, don't ask). I caught the last quarter of The Felice Brothers’ last song and pushed my way to damn-near the front of the small VT stage unaware that I may never be the same again.

The Felice Brothers left the stage and the gear just kept coming out onto the stage as if from a magical door. First a xylophone. Then a bullhorn. Next a gong. And…a fire hydrant? They look like normal guys, I thought—perhaps a bit too much like ex-druggies who go on to become Unitarian youth ministers—but normal enough. Then they disappeared. And they reappeared, wearing all white from head to toe and white face paint in random thumb-splotches. And then they began. And I couldn’t stop moving. The sold-out crowd was throbbing and pushing me along in time to songs I had never heard. I couldn’t stop yelling out responses to the singer’s calls. Where had they been all my life? Mind you, I've been to high-energy hardcore shows where I've lifted crowd surfers up and thrown random individuals up on stage only to have them backflip into the crowd. But this was different. This was...fun. And I didn't feel like I might have to start throwing punches to get the guy beside to give me an extra inch of breathing space.

I can’t speak about Man Man’s music, having only heard it for the first time that night. A friend of mine whom I inadvertently ran into at the show described it as “pirate-carnival-death music.” I can see that. But I heard some waltz, blues, polka, and metal thrown in and then beaten to a puree with a spiked mallet. If I purchase one of their albums now (their new LP Rabbit Habits is out April 8 on Anti- Records) I think it would be a bit of a let down. But only a let down because there is no way to ever faithfully recreate what Man Man is—how alive they are—in a concert setting. You know how some shows just feel routine, like there are motions set up for you and expectations that might be met? This is quite possibly one of those shows that ruins all others for me. Don’t ever miss a chance to see them live. Raise your freak flag with them unashamedly and salute their new breed of sound—so intense it can't be described, but so disastrous in its ability to amaze.

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