"I heard you're a John Ritter fan," says a giant green Styrofoam duck with orange Big Bird legs. He's chiding Benn Brockway, the singer/guitarist of the appropriately named two-piece math-punk band Styrofoam Duck. In more ways than one, the duck is like a drunk audience member sputtering nonsense. Normally he shares the stage with the duo. But for this show, at the Hexagon Bar two Saturday nights ago, the winged wonder has been relegated to the floor because, as Brockway puts it, "We did not feel that he was mentally stable enough to make it through the show without embarrassing us, since he has been constantly taking LSD for the past two months." (The duck denies the charge.)
Throughout the band's show, Brockway and drummer Dan Surreal brush off the poor fowl's hilarious between-song taunts ("You like Problem Child 2!") and instead launch into two-minute, early Pavement-inspired noise-rock tunes about monkeys riding unicycles, Abraham Lincoln, and, yes, ducks, as the five-foot-plus mascot's orange eyes flash in accompaniment to the fragmented beats. Brockway vigorously scratches his guitar strings like an OCD-riddled germaphobe trying to remove any last cootie residue as Surreal proudly bangs his cymbals with a tambourine, looking like a smiling mechanical monkey in Bono rock-star shades and a tie swiped from his grandpa's closet. The band formed sans duck a year ago this month after Brockway and Surreal met at the "haunted house," a rental in St. Paul inhabited by ghosts, young Rivers Cuomo lookalike Brockway, and local bands who made it their stomping grounds and subsequent resting spot for at least a night or two. Brockway says the atmosphere of the rock house, unexplained footsteps and all, helped him overcome social phobias, though he admits he still feels most comfortable sharing the stage with only one other person and, on acid-free nights, a duck that delivers a good roasting.
Styrofoam Duck are great fun to watch, and though they might be an ephemeral novelty, Brockway has a knack for melody and songwriting that make the short songs linger in your craw. Plus, that damn duck will probably go on to have his own monologue some day. And everyone in the audience that night, including a converted old-school Hexagon regular who just "loved the intensity" of Brockway's amp, will surely pay in Styrofoam breadcrumbs to see it.
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