Man or Astro-man? at the Turf Club, 6/13/13
Photo courtesy of the artist
Man or Astro-man?
Turf Club, St. Paul
Thursday, June 13, 2013
With a spotty existence the last decade the recently relaunched Man or Astro-man? made a long overdue return to the Twin Cities with a highly electrified but often troubled set at the Turf Club last night. In support of this year's latest from the surf-rocking, sci-fi punks, Defcon 5...4...3...2...1, Man or Astro-man? set the stage for a whirlwind set that started with highly intense moon-landing and spacial atmospheric wind sounds that peaked to introduce the band to the eager audience.
Breaking into their new wave inspired and punk-infused sound, Man or Astro-man? were welcomed with bobbing heads and pogo dancers. The crowd became animated as the band's patented stage set, futuristically updated since their original heyday, found them using mak shift old television sets and tubing to build on their space-age image. As projections of dials and knobs one would see on a spaceship colored the backdrop of the Turf stage, the light show and energy of Man or Astro-man? took off with promise -- before eventually things came to a screeching halt.
"Well this is what happens when you get to a show a half hour before you are supposed to be on stage!" admitted lead astro-man Coco the Electronic Monkey Wizard. With so much in the band's arsenal that could go wrong, glitches made the set consistently uneven throughout the evening. As more time would be required, drummer Birdstuff would leave his kit and try to improv with the audience on the mic several times, which became annoying and repetitive as his jokes or comments typically fell flat.
That's not to say that Man or Astro-man? didn't deliver the goods. Ripping through a particularily urgent "X-Ray Vision," guitarist and vocalist Star Crunch demonstrated his surf rock prowess with driving solos and reverb drenched sound.
As moon pictures, scenes from Metropolis, and scientific educational films and sound samples peppered the spectacular setting, Coco unleashed his latest musical invention, a bass guitar that had a built in iPad that he would use to trigger various soundbites to cosmic effect. In his astronautical jumpsuit and helmet, he wielded his instrument like a machine, ran through the crowd and ended with an extended workout on the theremin, sparking the familiar sound and sending the music into the upper atmosphere. The crowd went nuts and despite another technological hiccup stuck with Man or Astro-man? until the bitter end.
As the band reached a fever pitch for their last tune, Star Crunch took to abusing his guitar and amplifier, reconfiguring his his gear to leave his ax atop the amp, suspended and erupting in a feedback squeal of sound as the band left the stage.
"Good luck, earthlings! Good luck!" Coco signed off as the screen went black with the text "System Powering Down." With no encore it seemed the band had surrendered and were off to another planet.
Critic's Bias: Used to see Man or Astro-man? whenever they'd land for a visit several times in the past. Remembering the high energy of each show I had a hard time with the inconsistency of this evening.
The Crowd: A enthusiastic and energetic crop of punks, new wavers, indie rock geeks and surf rock aficionados.
Overheard in the crowd: "I didn't know there was a space chick in the band now?!"
Random Notebook Dump: Was told over and over through the evening how great Miami garage rock trio Jacuzzi Boys were as the opening act. Catching only their last song it seemed they perhaps upstaged the headliners. I really look forward to another chance of seeing them.
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