Os Mutantes, Ariel Pink at the Cedar, 11/20/10
with Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti and Diva Dompe
November 20, 2010
Cedar Cultural Center
Bands running waaaay behind schedule and the ice storm OF THE CENTURY (er, uh, or of the month) didn't keep a packed house of Os Mutantes fans, Ariel Pink fans, Ariel Pink detractors, and people who expressed freely of Diva Dompe that, "Well...she's pretty hot, I guess" from enjoying all (or elements) of the above at the Cedar Saturday night.
Following an early show by Battlefield Band and then a late-and-running-later soundcheck by the three late show acts, leaving early-arriving fans to wait in the lobby as an ice storm brewed outside, opener Diva Dompe took the stage around eleven. Dompe, well-known for her acts Pocahaunted and BlackBlack (and for her famous father, Bauhaus drummer Kevin Haskins), apologized for the late start, pointing out that attendees "looked cozy" in the foyer.
Dompe's performance of loopy vocals and live bass plus pre-recorded tracks brought mixed reactions from the audience.
Sorry, I just have to:
"You're such a pretty girl, whattya have to wear all that ridiculous makeup for?"
"God, shut up, Mom!"
"But your eyes, they're so pretty! Your pretty eyes!"
"And what is that racket, that incessant racket, that's not music!"
"God Mom, you just don't get it!"
"What is there to get?!? It sounds like an awful bunch of noise to me!"
"And your lipstick, that black lipstick, what happened to my beautiful little girl! My little girl! My little girl thinks she's some kinda witch or something! And if you think I forgot about how you still owe me 5 weeks' allowance for that drum machine thingy, young lady, well you got another thing coming!"
- My interpretation of Diva Dompe, as performed by a pair of 1980s actresses, as directed by, oh, I don't know, John Hughes maybe, as influenced by that one Twisted Sister video.
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti followed, and the band as a whole sounded great, performing in a kind of synch that seems difficult to maintain for a band assembled to perform collectively the songs of just one. However, something about seeing them on the (relatively) large stage of the (relatively) large Roy Wilkins Auditorium earlier this fall, in front of the Flaming Lips stage prop tomfoolery translated awesomely into some weird Asian-country-you're-too-tall-in game show quality that was absent at the Cedar, a cozy little place where you're served drinks by urban liberal volunteers young and old in cardigans and plastic-rimmed glasses. I missed that absurd quality Saturday night.
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti
Ariel Pink and band are, for me, much more palatable live than as I first perceived upon hearing Pink's solo recordings. Palatable? That sounds terrible -- he and his band sound superb, an adjective I never use because it makes me sound like a snot. Nonetheless, they are. And the dude is weird.
When you encounter weird musician dudes who, as Pink did on Saturday, demand beer onstage so they can "take (their) pills" and who wear silly lion-claw fingernails on their hands, don't you wonder how weird they truly are? Is the weird real, like, kid who used to smell the very top of his buttcrack all through math class and who you were convinced was having illicit relations with his strangely attractive mother while his inattentive salesman father was away, or is the weird a manufactured, put-on sort of weird? You know, it's best when you really can't tell, when the weird utterly confounds you. This li'l buddy confounds me. But the important thing? When the persona and allure only serve to enhance the already-great music. Weirdo solo artists (who may or may not have been on the bill Saturday night) ought take note - this is very important. These two qualities -- allure and music -- have to work in concert with one another. One without the other just sounds and looks really fucking stupid.
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti
After a lengthy set by Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, Os Mutantes came out way, way, way too damned late. Like after 1AM. And after their first song, they announce they hear nothing on their monitors (a problem that seemed to repeat itself throughout the night). I don't know how this could be, because they sounded amazing. Amazing enough to distract me from all previous thoughts of ditching out early to grab a gyro then escape these shitty icy streets by getting a room down the street at the Holiday Inn. Distraction at this point is no small feat, as A. I fucking love gyros -- the way the cow meat combines with the sheep meat just so, the tzatziki sauce, goddamn. And B. I love hotels. Any hotel. I don't think twice about bedbugs (lies). I love the strange, yet comfortable beds, the limited cable options, the bleachy towels and the windows that don't open.
All respects to every local band that pays homage to the music Os Mutantes and bands of their ilk were putting out when their parents were tiny tiny -- you've got the right intent, your hearts are in the right place, keep it up. But these fuckers? THEIR VOCAL HARMONIES ARE SPOTTER-ON THAN WHEN CROSBY STILLS NASH MINUS OUT-OF-TUNE GUY SING ABOUT DEAD KIDS ON OH HI OH. Yeah, their vocals kind of sound like CSNnotY. This is amazing. Breathe it in, kids. Really learn from it. This is heart + talent at its finest.
Whether playing songs old or new, Os Mutantes ooze an amazing happiness, a joy. They sound unreal. And they possess the kind of energy you rarely see in a venue the size of the Cedar. Think arena shows -- the acts are high-energy, because when you're getting paid that well to entertain that many people in that kind of space, they have to be. Think tiny club, like Minnesota Music Cafe or the new Shorewood Bar, the kind of place you only wind up in most nights by accident -- the acts are high-energy, because those teeny jazz, blues, R&B bands really still believe in it. But clubs this size? I feel like I always sense so much ambivalence, but not Saturday night, not from Os Mutantes.
By the end of their show, just a little under an hour after they began given the late hour, I was left feeling what it would have felt like to see, say, the Beatles (forgive me the trite reference) in that moment between when they were still too new, and when it was already too late to care (not "too late" as in, Lennon dead, but "too late" as in "Free as a Bird." Shudder). Let's say those Beatles reunited in 1985. Lennon's not dead, and the world's in need of a pick-me-up. You stop feeling disinterested, some rare moment between feeling jaded and feeling more jaded. This is precisely where my musical well-being found itself situated on Saturday night, and it felt pretty damned good.
Critic's bias: Not very good at thinking outside of musical boxes. Sorry, Diva.
The crowd: What you'd expect at the Cedar for this kind of show. Polite, even when crammed into the lobby for far too long. Absence of hard liquor may help facilitate this politeness.
Overheard in the crowd: "This is what the soundcheck was for?" (Sorry, Diva.)
Random notebook dump: The room sounds like horseshit on the lobby side, excellent elsewhere. FYI.
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