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Steve Barone has fulfilled my favorite rock 'n' roll fantasy. No, it's not the one involving Björk, the erotic bees in Cremaster 2, and a big ol' bottle of honey-scented body lotion. Okay, so maybe I should say that Barone--a.k.a. Mr. Hawaii Dude of the "band" the Hawaii Show--has fulfilled my second favorite rock 'n' roll fantasy: getting identical-twin boys to play inflatable guitars. During a typical Hawaii Show performance, Barone lip-synchs (or "lips it," as he calls it) along to a tape of his own singing voice while the two young clones churn out air-guitar riffs in perfect symmetry with the pre-recorded music. It couldn't be more perfect if he had Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen booty-dancing in cages.
And if Barone had snakeskin pants. And maybe a mustache... Ahem. My point is that sometimes a concert's visuals are every bit as important as the music. This is a fact that Barone, who recently chatted with me at Moose and Sadie's coffee shop, must be familiar with. The Minneapolitan has spent the last five years performing what are essentially the same songs with a rotating cast of Hawaii Show members. And while he's lippin' it live to his Casio chic-meets-Weird Al geek music, he goes through more prop and costume changes than Russell Crowe goes through married movie stars.
Barone is currently working on the ultimate visual stimulus: an upcoming event at Intermedia Arts, where he will present the Hawaii Show's notorious documentary, music videos, and commercials while performing his self-proclaimed "fake music." Those lucky viewers in attendance will see shorts like "The Hawaii Video," "All the Right Moves, All the Wrong Notes" and "Afro-Disiac," with scenes that include Mr. Hawaii Dude praying to the porcelain god, bouncing around to an aerobics routine, and declaring David Hasselhoff to be a genius.
You've gotta hand it to the Dude: He doesn't leave anything out. Barone notes that he would like to include more comedy skits in his performances, and he's even planning on carting the trash along to his upcoming shows. (Sorry, Baywatch fans, that doesn't mean Hasselhoff will be there.) "We have this garbage can--you lift the lid and you hear people clapping," the Dude explains. "[City Pages staff writer] Peter Scholtes once wrote that the only thing my show needed was canned applause. Now I literally have it."
Those who count themselves as enemies of the bad pun (i.e., those with bad taste) may not understand the Dude's sense of humor. Most people will giggle when they hear Mr. Hawaii sing, "He pisses like a racehorse and drinks like a fish/He's checkin' out the girls, but the girls are saying Ish!" over a synth siren and a canned beat. But not everyone digs Hawaii's own Gong Show-like performance: Barone admits that he almost got booed offstage after opening for über-serious metalheads Nickelback at the Quest.
And the Twin Cities activist scene seems to find the Hawaii Show's high jinks about as funny as a night of improv with John Ashcroft. "Two weeks ago I did a show for people who are associated with [the anarchist bookstore] Arise," Barone recalls. "We're going on after these leftist puppet skits and social commentary about Afghanistan, and there's me with my shirt off, singing these misogynist lyrics--but it's not me, it's a character. And [fellow Hawaii Showman] Afro-Disiac has this, um, three-foot-long prosthesis on and he's doing these spread-eagles and the audience is just appalled. They got really angry. But the more violent people got, the bigger his spread-eagle would get. We essentially assaulted the crowd. It's like You want more? Here's more!"
For those of you who do want more, there are two--count 'em, two!--Hawaii Shows in the upcoming weeks. Just watch out for Barone the Belligerent. "I'm basically at the point where I play shows so that I can get into fights with the audience," he notes, half-jokingly. Could there soon be canned screams and prerecorded comic-book sounds (pow! kaboom!) to soundtrack the choreographed punches? Behold the lip-synch circuit, the indie alternative to the WWF.