Man Man, Xenia Rubinos Fitzgerald's Upstairs September 22, 2013
Man Man has always been a bit of a mystery, so much so that many people in Sunday's crowd were unaware that the group would even be headlining the venue's upstairs ballroom that night.
Before the Philly group even stepped onstage, many fans could be overheard talking about how they "didn't even know Man Man was in town," or thanking their friends for "making sure [they] didn't miss this one." Hell, even I was excited to be seeing the group in a live setting.
You see, I've seen Man Man once before -- albeit briefly -- at the annual Mess With Texas showcase in Austin during South By Southwest. Unfortunately, I only got to see about three songs before my show companion asked to leave, citing the performance being "just too fucking weird to handle."
And thanks to one of KTRU's annual outdoor shows, I also had the pleasure of seeing Man Man leader Honus Honus perform in Mister Heavenly, alongside Nick Thorburn (The Unicorns/Islands) and Joe Plummer (Modest Mouse/The Shins.) This prepared me enough for what was in store, but the men of Man Man always seem to find a way to surprise their fans.
As the lights dimmed, a spooky remix of Cher's "Life After Love," played over the speakers, welcoming the band onto the stage in their coordinated black T-shirts and red pants. (Or in Honus Honus' case, shorts.)
But things didn't stay that way for long. Honus Honus, Man Man's lead vocalist and keyboardist, was backstage throwing on a blue-striped suit jacket before jumping to the front of the stage to sing the band's second song, "Loot My Body."
What was so humbling about watching Honus Honus perform, however, was how much he involved the crowd into his performance.
While other singers might simply put on an act and "work" the front of the stage to give the illusion of closeness, Honus Honus was getting into the thick of it, often climbing down on his hands and knees in order to grab the faces of those in the front row as they sang the words along with him.
It's the kind of stage presence that might not seem surprising at the moment, but in the overall scheme of things, it made the performance that much more enjoyable.
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Because Man Man's unique style features elements of doo-wop that intertwine perfectly with a heavy influence from The Cramps, their music indulges the audience in their urge to dance and sing.
And really, that was all anyone could seem to do as Honus Honus jumped up from his keys during "Paul's Grotesque," donning a navy blue coat and alien face mask.
By the time the band got to "Haute Tropique," he was balancing both himself and his microphone in the hands of the crowd as he threw out confetti that included small toys and glitter. Of course, he did all of this while wearing a hooded cloak.
What was most impressive, however, was how well the band was handling the set, which seemed to move at lightning speed. Because they never took any breaks to banter with the crowd, drummer and vocalist Pow Pow was drenched in enough sweat one might have easily believed he'd just jumped into a swimming pool fully dressed. The remaining members of the band -- T. Moth, Brown Sugar, and Shono Murphy -- powered through the set while switching off turns on keyboards, guitars, and trumpet.
Around the same time that the group started playing "Head On," a track off of their recently released fifth studio album, On Oni Pond, a man tapped me on the shoulder and begged me to dance with him. Naturally, I obliged him, but eventually had to keep him from trying to put me on someone's shoulders just before the band left the stage for their encore.
Now, I've been to enough concerts in my lifetime to know the encore routine. The band exits, the crowd cheers and after they've taken a moment to breathe, the band returns to the stage for a few more songs. But this was no regular encore break.
Instead, the crowd was cheering louder than I've heard since I was a teenager. Combine that with everyone stomping on the floor and banging on the railing of the balcony, and it felt more like a stampede waiting to happen.
Luckily, Houston was granted four songs during Man Man's encore, including "Rabbit Habits" and "El Azteca."
In all, there were about 16 songs and four costume changes for Honus Honus, which each did their part turn every person in the Fitzgerald's audience into a forever fan.
How Was the Opener? Opener Xenia Rubinos was touring in support of her debut album, Magic Trix. In a live setting, she has a few things to iron out, such as timing and getting the best sound out of her set. Even so, those issues weren't enough to overshadow how infectious and endearing her passion were.
Overheard In the Crowd: One guy made up a song that simply went, "I hate when tall people stand in front of me at shows." The funniest thing about this is that this guy wasn't short, which completely cancels out the myth that being tall immediately grants you a better view.
The Crowd: This was the most diverse crowd I've encountered during my time with Rocks Off. From rockabilly babes to hippies with dreadlocks, guys in studded jean vests and preppy girls, there wasn't one distinctive thing about the crowd to pinpoint. There were, however, lots of guys in hats with groomed facial hair.
Random Notebook Dump: Maybe I'm crazy, but I swear Honus Honus' facial hair got noticeably longer during the set.
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