In the Crowd: Man Man
The thing is, its not like the Fiery Furnaces were not substantially warned. Rolling Stone had deemed them the Best Live Act of SXSW in 2005, endless websites have been drooling over their frantic stage presence, and virtually every account of Man Man in concert contained the words, holy shit, wow, insane, and moustache. So, when brother/sister Friedberger asked Honus Honus and his band of gypsy-driven madmen to open for them (yes, OPEN for them), they had to know they would completely up-staged from the start and that by the time the Fiery Furnaces took the stage, half the crowd would either be at the merchandise table buying anything Man Man or else halfway home, joyously drunk with the knowledge they had seen Man Man before they exploded.
In their traditional garb of all white outfits (in order to take the focus off one member and show the band as a whole) Man Man absolutely killed the crowd of hipsters and myspace devotees from the opening notes of "Feathers" until the final vocals on "Ice Dogs." In between these two gems off of their latest ramshackle, Six Demon Bag, Man Man filled 45 minutes with non-stop rock action. "Against the Peruvian Monster" came early and had the crowd shifting and shaking with all the grace of an epileptic. "Hot Bat" was a riotous affair, as was "Push the Eagles Stomach." "Young Einstein on the Beach" came early in the set, convincing anyone unfamiliar with their sound that yes, these guys are fucking awesome and yes, they're loud.
Taking all of 2 seconds before starting the next song, the stunned crowd didn't have time to clap or even cheer; they were too busy taking it all in. Did I just see Honus Honus throwing spoons into a bowl? Did the drummer just jump off his seat and not miss a beat? Did the guitar player just pull out a trombone while I was watching the other keyboard player smashing a pasta bowl with a mallet? Did the entire band just pull out horns and start blowing them with more force than an 80 knot storm? Sure as fuck they did and that was just a few songs into it.
When it was all said and the band had finished a crowd-pleasing version of "Icy Dogs," they left the stage as quickly as they came. The clapping continued as long as it took them to clear half the stage. The happy crowd had to make up for all the clapping they missed out on through out the set.
As mentioned, Man Man was opening for Fiery Furnaces. Sensing that most people were going to leave, we decided to give Fiery Furnaces a chance before skipping out and stopping at the merch table. However, 3 songs into it, it was more than obvious that the two bands are not even in the same league, let alone playing the same sport. FF were amateur with their straight-ahead chord progressions and snare-intensive drumming, while the organized chaos of Man Man is something that completely rejects what the Fiery Furnaces produced. Both bro and sis ‘Berger looked about as pissed off as could be, but really who could blame them? Each night they play to a club that only 30 minutes earlier was a frantic chaotic affair; however, the moment they hit the stage, the balloon pops and air goes out of the whole scene. For some odd reason, they've electrified their softer songs, perhaps in an attempt to emulate what Man Man creates and subsequently destroys each night. Unfortunately, they fail miserably and their lack of showmanship and enjoyment is only highlighted by Man Man's euphoric joy at playing music.
At the merch table, there sat Honus Honus, perhaps amazed at what his band has become, perhaps disillusioned with the fame he's on the verge of. Sitting there, gulping water out of a 4 liter bottle, it is obvious he's out of his element and that perhaps fame isn't his career choice. For a guy who no more than a year ago was probably pounding out songs on his keyboard in his parents house, it must be a little overwhelming to see girls in the audience wearing sunglasses that look like yours and sporting painted-on moustaches. No doubt, the white shirts on stage idea was his, hoping perhaps to draw the attention away from a guy who has been compared with Waits and Zappa. Such comparisons are enormous, but what's even bigger is the act he has to keep up. What could be worse than being compared to Tom Waits, only to eventually fall from grace and end up hearing "at one time, he could have been the next Tom Waits."
For now, Man Man is on the loose and if they are within a 3 hour drive of your house, you'd be a complete fool not to take the trek. Rent a car, hitchhike, or steal a fucking camel. It's worth it, no matter the cost.
- Darren Susin | 2006-06-19
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