with Raleigh Moncrief
The Social, Orlando, FL June 11, 2012
I'm not going to say that Man Man is a hipster band because that will sound like they sell vinyl records, shirts without the band name and only in XS and M sizes, and have the ability to generate a crowd dominated with turd-squeezing-tight skinny jeans, obscure "death" metal shirts, and beards so sensitive that you can hear them cry when you eat the last pizza roll. Wait, they totally did all of that...
Ok, forget Man Man for a tick. Let's discuss the opener, Raleigh Moncrief. He likes long walks in industrial complexes, cappuccino from tattooed lispers, rocking rad accents from Cali, brah, and performing the electronic equivalent of shoes in a dryer.
I was there when the sound guy hit that little red button. I remember the moment. Raleigh had grabbed the microphone with his pale bony knuckles and lifted it to his mouth. He inhaled and then vocalized the most vomit-evoking words a professional sound guy could ever hear. He actually asked the crowd a question so vile and pretentious that when it buzzed out of his throat I almost ran and hid. He spoke with the seriousness of a bullfighter, "Can you hear everything ok? I mean, reallllllllly hear everything ok?"
He stared into our eyes while asking. He was serious. He wanted to know if we could really hear everything. While I pondered the profoundness of that thought I turned to look at the sound guy who was now doing a slow-motion, Matrix-style, wall-running back flip with the wildest "Oh no that motherfucker didn't" grimace on his angry face. He continued in slowmotion to complete the flip. Landing in a twist he twirled to straighten out his gaze, now fixed on Raleigh.
"When you want to know how something sounds in here, you ask me, punk!" I imagined the sound guy mouthing in an unintelligible growl. His right arm slowly raised to the ceiling and sailed down with the fury of a hungry tiger. His finger flexed and pointed as it flew down and landed square on that little red "suck" button.
Raleigh reeled from the blow, but not to be outdone, he countered the attack with a better beat and more swishing sounds! The crowd, not interested and unmoved, avoided concern as the sound guy took the shot to the face! Swinging back, he adjusted the fader that caused Raleigh to knock the Sure SM58 microphone out of order and into bad-connection oblivion!
In an act of pure defiance, Raleigh committed the last attack in this war. He performed a final opus of sample-laden electronica -- an instrumental -- and as it played, I turned slowly to watch the sound guy pull out his katana sword and plunge it into his belly, falling with a splattered crimson face to the ground. Raleigh had won. Finally a good song. The crowd shouted with happiness as the final note rumbled from the speakers. As the dust settled, the audience assumed their unsocial, head-down, texting obliviousness and readied themselves for Man Man.
Man Man is wholly remarkable. Five creatively insane travelers from space with galactic-sized balls for their songcraft and showmanship. Each one is the group is a multi-instrumentalist who knows how to play it right and keep it weird. They are Tom Waits with more energy... (I swore I wasn't going to write that. Such sacrilege... You know, really! How dare I? Friggin' Tom Waits is my hero.) You know what? I said it. Suck it. Man Man gives me hope.
Man Man fans are extremely polite. They apologize for everything. Get too close to them: "Sorry!" They take a little too long to order a drink: "Sorry!" They don't mosh, either. Even at their most frenzied they resemble what I would call a wiggle-pit. My wife called it a Kitten-Tussle. At their peak it was nothing but kitten wiggles and soft-spoken "Sorry!"s. It was the Kidz Bop of slam dancing.
Vibes, synths, marimba, bass, guitar, drums, keys, and if it makes a sound they played it. No, they rocked it! It was infectious and the whole of us shuffled our feet for their full set featuring songs that span their discography. The focus on Life Fantastic was noted and applauded. As they ripped the roof off that mother, the smell of hair care products and dryer sheets filled The Social. The crowd had finally heated up. The tussle was on. Man Man was on fire!
Honus Honus (singer, Fender Rhodes man) glittered the crowd in a sparkly coat, put on a dress, wore golden slippers, and encouraged us to jingle our car keys. Other members jumped from instrument to instrument like clowns playing leap frog. The sax/vibe/metal clangy thing player tickled the bass and killed it. The drummer, on a kit that would be perfect for a midget, kept time like no other. (He reminded me of my old friend James, with whom I used to wash dishes at the old folks home. James and I were both there the day Gary scared all of the waitresses out of the kitchen with a bratwurst that he had carved into a very realistic penis.) He and Honus locked eyes from time to time, each one reading the time off the other like they were both clocks! The instrumental song near the end of the set sent the You've-got-to-be-kidding-me meter to 12. They were fantastic!
Man Man is the new hope for America. Buy their albums. See their shows. You will be a better person and we will live in a better place if you do.