October 13th, 2011
It had been almost 15 years to the day since I last saw Man or Astro Man? when they were here at the Majestic last Sunday. Our last encounter was on 11 October 1996 at the now-defunct East End. At that show, Aussie post-rockers The Dirty Three opened and violinist Warren Ellis was an absolute madman who brought their songs to deafening crescendos.
This time around it was Jaill who had opening duties, an indie rock band from Milwaukee. While I congratulate them on being signed by Sub Pop, I couldn’t find a whole lot in their music to get excited about. The one thing that I did like was Austin Dutmer’s drumming. He could really beat the skins. Too bad the guitar riffs were nowhere near as fun.
After a change of gear and a lengthy excerpt from an old sci-fi flick, MoAM? took the stage which was decked out in what I take to be pneumatic hoses and adorned with three screens of various shapes. The core members (Star Crunch, Coco, and Birdstuff) were joined by the comely Avona Nova on rhythm guitar. Everyone had a jumpsuit on or at least part of one. Ms. Nova had a sleek skirt which would have looked right at home in Lost in Space.
Despite it having been 15 years since I last saw them, they don’t appear to have slowed down one iota. With the screens filled with spacey animation and clips from cheesy sci-fi movies of years past, Star Crunch and Ms. Nova hammered out those overly-dramatic guitar riffs in all their reverb-drenched glory. Coco jumped around the stage whether he was playing bass (is that a Danelectro?) or had an old computer keyboard slung around his shoulder to trigger effects as he did for “Invasion of the Dragonmen”. For his part, Birdstuff seemed to be trying to break his cymbals because he beat the crap out of them playing like Animal.
While I don’t have the setlist, the band drew mostly from their first four albums with classics such as “Escape Velocity”, “——– (Classified)”, and “Television Fission” all getting manic workouts. I think that I would have gone on a rampage had they not played “Maximum Radiation Level” but fortunately for everyone at the Majestic that night, they did. This song represents all that is good and holy about the band. You’ve got the pounding drums, the muscular guitar riff that resolves itself with a quick slide down the neck, and a bridge which would make Ming the Merciless proud. The original version on the Deluxe Men in Space EP was fast. The final version on Experiment Zero was even faster. Here it was just spastic. Nova’s hands moved up and down the neck of her guitar at near light speed while it looked like Star Crunch grabbed some kind of astro slide for his maniacal soloing. I was personally excited when they played “U-URANUS” but almost didn’t recognize it because it was so fast. Unfortunately for my girlfriend, she got to hear me “serenade” her with this song. On the plus side, the tempo was so quick, they finished it in what seemed like under a minute.
Coco donned his space suit at one point and mingled with the crowd. But he was back onstage in time for a mid-show tribute to Steve Jobs. He hauled out an old Mac LC, sent a simple text file to the equally antiquated ImageWriter II printer, and did a little routine to the printing. The show ended with an adrenaline-filled “Special Agent Conrad Uno” that came with one of Coco’s patented Theremin codas. And of course the Tesla coil discharge ended the proceedings.
My lone gripe was they played for only about an hour with no encore. Perhaps they were especially tired, I don’t know. But my electrostatic brain field sure could have used another helping from the Intergalactic Radioactive Breakfast Bar.