New Music of The Blogosphere and Beyond

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Friday, October 21, 2005


Once in a while, you stumble on a show that, despite things like low crowd attendence and technical limitations, ends up being one of the most gratifying live experiences you could possibly hope to see. When music, comedy and theatrical entertainment combine, you get what they used to call hype in the 60s and early 70s. Hype now is referred to as a sort of pleasurable public tension at the outset of a new artist's career or the release of an anticipated album. Will the artist deliver? Are they really as good as everyone says they are? These questions somehow invaded the meaning of hype over its evolution from the 60s freak-out to the flow session to the popular culture expression it has become. Who knows, the word might have even meant something different in the 50s, if it was even around back then, but for now, we'll look at the performative essence of the word as derived from pop cultural manifestations.

As my old friend Chris McCullough of the legendary Winnipeg fringe-pop sax-rock group Junior Barnes and the Cadillacs tells me, "hype was something we used on stage as a way to keep the audience drinking. Basically, we were paid a cut of the bar tab, so we had to them buying beer. Nobody bought drinks during the music (which is still true- ed.), but we noticed they'd be splurging for change when we goofed of with them during our set. So we'd play six or seven songs and we'd spend the rest of the time doing 'hype'."

They invented characters like Dr. Faroukh, whose quest to hypnotize the audience enhanced the show with his bizarre but laugh-grabbing ice-breaking humour that said "don't take anything too seriously". The audience loosened up and bought beer. The band started making money again, but grew more creative with crowd gags as a result.

In my own time, I've witnessed some seriously well-executed hype. In 2001, I witnessed Pittsburgh's Grand Buffet out-spectacle Wesley Willis in Winnipeg., taping their heads together and performing coordinated dances to "power karaoke". HILARIOUS! Similarly, first time I saw The Barcelona Pavillion, I was impressed at how they could hold the crowd with really quick, wacky songs bumpered by nerdy but rousing hype.

Last night at The Boat was all hype by those standards...and oh yeah, some kickass music made it its way in there too.

It began with Pyramid Culture, a new four-piece "vocal" group singing odes to science and math under a light show while getting tipsy on Buckley's. Kat Collins and her three lady professors of the absurd made a great go of their twenty minutes on stage. A brief interlude of loud, unintended feedback broke the wall between the live engineers and the group in a very public and comedic display of informative science. How perfect it was for them to have beautifully seized the moment for such relief! I wish I had brought a date! She woulda liked it!

JEANS TEAM - Keine Melodien

Jeans Team are three dressed-to-party Berliners commanding tables of gadgets galore on stage. They brought with them a great professionalism and austerity that would break down about two minutes into every song, spiralling elegantly into almost vaudevillian performance art. Frontman Reimo Herfort danced perversely when he wasn't playing musical surgery with his Stylophone or teasing us with his thrusting key-tars. Henning Watkinson blasted dub-disco with his beat machines and kronked the occasional guitar line, while Franz Schütte layed sticks to racks of rhythm pads and sang punk songs into the mic. They drove a small number of audience members into a frisky frenzy of civil disobedience that saw them promptly removed from the bar. "Ve have some dancing people heir, ja?" said Herfort as master of ceremonies. "Everybody just kool aut!"


Finally, the muppetish rap group known as Puppetmastaz came out from behind a large screen to announce their North American debut. "Yo, this is our first time here, and this song is called 'We back'!" Dropping mad flows and sick beats, the trio composed of Jamaican aardvark Mr. Maloke, Snuggles the Bunny and Wizard the Frog put on a show that just cannot be out-triumphed.

The hype was all over the place. New characters were introduced nearly every song, along with appearances from famous dolls like Miss Piggy and a feisty light-sabre happy Yoda. Each core member of the group took part in a talent show while Snuggles actually showed us his foot moves on the top edge of the screen.

The masters behind the Mastaz even showed themselves in human form as TheSneaker Boots, a team of afroed lab coat-clad engineers who fix the occasional problems - y'know, pesky microphone generators and all! - and deliver a slammin' above the neck performace that was made all the more incredible by their unwillingness to show their whole bodies.

If ever there's a night you should be sorry you missed, it's this one. Next time these berliners come to Toronto, let's show them the same respect the Krauts gave us when our beloved Jake Fairley took his music to new levels over there. Let's sell their next show out.

Both Berlin groups can be found through Louisville Records, and they've got lenty of material available so indulge yourselves.


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9:29 PM  
Blogger Trevor Haldenby said...

Those Pyramidiculturists look like they should be the providers of soundtrack for a certain duo of Detectives!
Do you have any leads on where I can find downloadable versions of their products?

9:23 AM  
Blogger Guy Stevos said...

sadly they are unwebbed, but i can talk to Kat and get some tunes if they have any recorded.

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