Aftermath considers himself a reasonably tolerant sort of fellow - you pretty much have to be to do this job. And we know for a fact we have a sense of humor, and a pretty off-color sense of humor at that, because it's gotten us in hot water more than once.
Which is why no one was more surprised than we were that our reaction to Friday's Puscifer show at Jones Hall went from "What the hell?" to "Seriously?" to "This is bullshit" in record time. We can't remember the last time we actually walked out of a show, but given the sophomoric material and utter contempt for his audience exuded by Puscifer ringleader Maynard James Keenan, Friday we didn't walk out soon enough.
It was easy enough to understand what Keenan & Co. were going for: an old-timey Hee Haw-style revue that was like Johnny & June Carter Cash from their variety-show days run through an issue of Hustler. Wigs and costumes from Nashville's '70s wardrobe graveyard paired with lots of jokes about boners, butt sex and big titties.
Which would have been fine, if more than one or two of them had been funny ("our family tree looks like a Spirograph"), and if the whole thing hadn't come across as holier-than-thou Hollywood types looking down their noses at us backwoods, inbred Southerners with trailer-trash stereotypes even the Blue Collar Comedy Tour alumni know were stale and passé a decade ago.
Aftermath does have to give Puscifer credit on a couple of counts, however. The music was spot-on, vintage Music City show-band country that hit all its marks from the clippety-clop drums to the slightly sardonic steel guitar. Keenan and duet partner "Hildy," British chanteuse Carina Round doing an over-the-top Kornfield Kounty accent, came across as Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton gone wrong (or, considering that duo's tumultuous behind-the-scenes history, even more wrong).
And the set, a storefront with a real tin roof and second-story screen that alternated showing sketch videos with mock mercantile names like "8 Ball Bail Bonds" and "Death Valley Health Clinic," was both postmodern and down-home. Thank God they spared us stacking a bunch of bales of hay on the stage, but maybe they just couldn't find any.
Aftermath wishes we could say the same thing about the material - postmodern and down-home, that is - but instead it reminded us of another ill-advised Mr. Show spinoff: the 2002 movie Run Ronnie Run!, which went straight to DVD for good reason and The Onion's AV Club rightfully called out for its "low hick comedy and creaky plot elements." Maybe Keenan figured all the crackers down in Houston town would think Circle Jerks jokes told in a cornpone twang, cracks about "country boners" and an entire song that was nothing but he and Hildy trading lines about fucking practically the entire Country Music Hall of Fame were high-larious, and we'd all laugh our Urban Cowboy asses off. If so, he thought wrong.
Around the time Aftermath was writing "as far as shtick goes, I'll take Southern Culture on the Skids..." in our notebook, things really got ugly. At about 30 minutes in, the sense of incredulity we could feel steadily growing in Jones Hall finally boiled over, and people began heckling the band. Normally, Aftermath would cringe at this sort of behavior from a hometown crowd - especially after selecting Houston concert-goers as our 2009 "Muscial Turkey(s) of the Year" - but since we were already cringing from what we were witnessing onstage, we were more than happy to give them a pass.
"Play some Puscifer!" someone yelled, to which Keenan replied, "Eat a dick... let's give them something depressing and suicidal." Then he sang the next song lying prone on the stage, which was about all we needed to see. Aftermath got up, left the hall and did not look back.
We left the show angry, appalled and embarrassed that we ran a 400-word story on Puscifer in this week's print issue. And we weren't the only ones: Afterwards at Warren's, our friend - who is a much bigger Tool fan than Aftermath, by the way, or she was - told us she felt likewise insulted and would want her money back if she hadn't bought her ticket from a scalper. If anyone else feels this way, we certainly don't blame you. Feel free to email us and we'll see what we can do, but don't get your hopes up.
We are curious to know what other people who went to this "show" and perhaps lasted longer than we did thought. Maybe there was some sort of greater social point Maynard and friends were trying to make beyond the fact that, in his eyes, his fans can more or less go fuck themselves. But they couldn't have shown more contempt for the audience if Maynard took all the evening's box-office receipts and set them on fire at center stage, or thrown them all on a mattress and fucked Hildy on top of it. What Aftermath saw amounted to pretty much the same thing.
Maybe we're overreacting, and maybe we just don't get the joke. But sure as shootin', Friday night it didn't seem like there was enough of a joke there to get.
For more pictures from Friday night's debacle, see our slideshow here.