4 November 2009
On Tour With Puscifer
Oakland, The Fox Theater
Review by Boney at Syntax Army
Um, yeah. Sasha and I went to see Puscifer last night. And, um. Yeah. There are few words to explain its awesomeness. First off, it was at The Fox Theatre in Oakland, which is GORGEOUS. An amazing venue to see a show if you get the chance… And then there was Puscifer. The brainchild of Maynard James Keenan which has an ever-changing life of its own every night. And we caught an amazing one… In Maynard’s words, “[Puscifer's] goal is to make music that sounds like a smooth but firm hot buttered pelvic massage.” And yeah. My pelvis felt it last night. To say that Maynard is a genius would be an understatement. [Insert man-crush obviousness here.] Seriously, the entire random production was something that could only come from a man with an awesomely warped-genius mind like Maynard. We went from hilarious laughter to straight out fuckin’ rockin’ when they hit the hard stuff. Highlights were definitely “Momma Sed” which they did SUPER hard and loud… “Rev. 22.20″ went from such a beautiful soft melody to a voracious chorus that nearly shook me out of my pants. [And I'm assuming something similar was going on under Sasha's skirt... Ahem.] Visually, they did this really cool thing where for most of the show he and Juliette Commagere stood behind large flat panel monitors on stands with cameras on the back so that their faces were visible and larger than life. The lighting tech needs a nod too, cuz with music as diverse as Puscifer’s he NAILED those perfect moments when music and lighting meet like lovers in the night. Long story short, last night was poetry in motion on high speed… Loud and bright and spiritual. A delicious treat I’m still digesting. I’m gonna keep workin’ on that as I actually do some work now and listen to the free copy of “V is for Vagina” CD we got at the end of the show…
A final word from Maynard:
Life is too short NOT to create something with every breath we draw. Puscifer celebrates this creative process. We embrace all mediums. Music, film, cuisine, winemaking, useless stuff made in china by slaves who beat baby seals, and very specific forms of martial arts that are completely ineffective but appear mysterious and edgy.”
Review by umlaut
Note: Link has a couple additional non-Carina photos from the show.
Umlaut has been going to Metal shows almost exclusively this year for one reason or another... so I was looking forward to this show since it would be something completely different.. and it was... for better or worse.
For the newbies: Puscifer is a side project of Maynard Keenan of Tool. The last time I saw Maynard onstage was around the corner at The Paramount when Tool played there in 2006. I basically knew nothing about Puscifer prior to the show, other than Tim Alexander of Primus is one of the drummers. According to Wikipedia, the band's original name was "Umlaut".. Hmmm.
I'm going to break with form here and say I'm simply not motivated to write about Puscifer. It's not that I disliked the music... On the contrary I didn't mind the music at all and I'm a fan of Maynard's vocals... BUT I was not engaged by the presentation at all. I kind of got it.. it was theater... it was social commentary... etc. etc... I simply wasn't in the mood to invest that much effort in it. This is completely 100% on me. Instead of trying to rationalize why I didn't like Puscifer's performance, I'll simply refer you to a positive and informed Puscifer review by Umlaut Nation friend Hard Rock Chick and move on.
The reason I was even at the show was because Uncle Scratch's Gospel Revival (USGR) put me on their guest list via Umlaut Nation and USGR friend Jim (Hey Jim!). USGR are the duo of Brother Eddie and Brother Ant from Cleveland who "preach" the gospel with a wreckless punk rock-like abandon. They remind me of Doo Rag in how they perform low-fi music through low-fi instruments; a USGR motto taped to Ant's cardboard drum kit said "Low Fi On and Jesus High". Ant plays a beaten up Telecaster through tiny amps and Eddie plays "drums" on an amazing combination of cardboard barrels, a snare drum, a cymbal, and an old metal milk crate in place of a hi-hat. Ant sings through a shitty mic and Eddie does backing vocals and addresses the crowd through a megaphone via junky microphones attached to either a harmonica holder around his neck or on a vintage football helmet. Evidently Maynard absolutely loves USGR and he handpicked them to open this tour and they also appear onstage during Puscifer's set.
As we approached The Fox, USGR were out in front *protesting* the show and railing against the "evils" of Rock Music. It was pretty funny, but at the time I didn't realize that most of the crowd thought Brother Ed was Maynard; evidently Maynard appears in a recent Puscifer video and *looks* and acts similar to Brother Ed. I haven't seen the video, but thus began my evening amongst The Cult Of Maynard...
Not long after entering the venue I realized how many people had thought Brother Ed was Maynard when I overheard ALOT of people saying a variation of "Yeah! Maynard was out front harrassing people!" etc. etc. Bizarre... but since I'm not completely versed in Puscifer I didn't know just how plausible this was to The Cult Of Maynard.
Later, after USGR's inspirational set, the Brother Ed > Maynard misidentification continued when the guys sitting to my right were raving about how "crazy" Maynard had been onstage... I felt like saying something, but I didn't. Then at the bar another guy was CONVINCED that Maynard was the drummer in USGR (Trivia: Evidently Maynard plays drums... I had no idea..) and when I attempted to explain that USGR are really a band from Cleveland he cut me off and said something like "Man, I'm a HUGE Maynard fan... and I KNOW that was him... and despite what you're saying I WANT to believe that it was him..." I kind of looked at him and thought "Ooookaaay, koo koo for Coco Puffs..." It's not like we were talking about Motörhead so I let it go. "I WANT to believe that it was him..." The Cult Of Maynard.
However, when Puscifer's set began I thought the joke was on ME! After a brief film introduction featuring Maynard as a General, Brother Ant and Brother Ed came onstage to address the crowd... and for a couple of minutes I thought that maybe I had been kept in the dark about Ed's "true" identity, because in sunglasses and without a baseball cap he did look like Maynard... and even when Maynard made his entrance onstage it still wasn't clear because he was in costume wearing a funny comb-over wig while riding a Segway. It wasn't until the 3rd song of the set that I chilled out and realized Maynard was Maynard onstage when he finally revealed himself sans costume... and then a couple of songs later Brother Ant and Brother Ed came onstage again as part of the shows theatrics. Soon after that I got bored and bailed to join Photo Ray at the bar and the first thing I said to him was "METAL".
As we watched the last moments of the set from the bar, someone came up to me and said "Are you Brian?"... I didn't know who the guy was... but then I realized it was Brother Ed talking in his "normal" voice! It caught me completely off guard that he was out of character. Hilarious! He was soon joined by Ant and it was cool to chat with them about how USGR got hooked up with Maynard (he randomly saw them playing in a club in Arizona..) and how well he's been treating them since they're not used to "big Rock tours" like Puscifer's. Ed also told more tales about getting mistaken for Maynard and how trippy / funny that is.. When I asked Ed what they were going to do after the Puscifer tour he said "Go back to playing on the sidewalk in Cleveland.." AMEN! Uncle Scratch's Gospel Review are the best God Squad band since Stryper.
If you had bought one of every Puscifer merch item you would have paid around $725 (!); they had ALOT of merch. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. It struck me this morning that parts of Puscifer's presentation (the parts I paid attention to..) addressed the "cult" theme that I experienced... Jesus' image on toast.. I'm sure there are some Maynard devotees who see his face in toast. Religion is anywhere you can find it I guess... I should have paid more attention to Puscifer... Oh well... cue Uncle Scratch's Gospel Review!
Review by Jonathan Pirro at Spinning Platters
Forget any expectations you have for the evening at hand. Leave them at the door, which, in the case of tonight’s show, is beset with a flock of confused, wary patrons, eyeing a man in an off-tan suit and taped-together sunglasses, who is armed with a megaphone. The man is Brother Ed of Uncle Scratch’s Gospel Revival, and he is begging, PLEADING for the patrons to not enter the Fox Theater tonight, to not forsake their own souls as the cost of attending this show which, according to him, can only be the work of the Devil himself.
Brother Ed should be scared. His rants, while facetious at their core, are somewhat justified. He and his band will be opening, tonight, for Puscifer.
Those who were brave enough to venture inside discovered a fully-seated show, with two lines wrapping around both sides of the auditorium; those with prime seats also had the chance to purchase tickets for a Meet-And-Greet with Puscifer and/or a wine tasting from Mr. Keenan himself (with wine from his own personal vineyard). Onstage was what appeared to be a pile of junk in the shape of a drum kit; nearby were two ladders with lazily-hung canvases with more gospel-revival slogans; the icing on the cake was a crudely-built cross bedazzled with Christmas lights. This made up the stage set for Uncle Scratch’s Gospel Revival Band, which in pure structure and sound was the definition of “garage punk.”
Once Brother Ed had ceased his preaching outside the theater, he and his partner Brother Ant took the stage and blasted through a furious half-hour set of gospel-infused, country-soaked punk rock. With a giant cardboard tube for a kick drum and a wire bike cage for a snare, Brother Ed added two more megaphones atop his hat during the course of their set, adding to the unapologetically lo-fi feel of the band’s sound. The set ended with Brother Ant barreling over to Ed’s drum set, smashing into it and knocking it across the stage, to raucous cheers and applause from the crowd. The stagehands then cleared the debris (and preachy ornaments) from the stage, making way for a set of sleek black monitors, comfy leather couches, and two massive drum sets on either side of the stage.
The audience was definitely unsure as to what to expect next, a feeling which had been present all evening. When the lights dropped, the first sign that they were about to be treated to a show that was utterly bizarre splashed its way across the giant screen above the stage: Maynard James Keenan, in full military garb against an American flag backdrop (a la General Patton, albeit with a falling-off fake mustache and a flask in one hand), who snarled at the audience to turn off the flash on their cameras after getting them to shout out the word “VAGINA!” in an uneasily jubilant chorus. The instruments onstage were soon picked up by the musicians making up the current incarnation of Puscifer, including drummer Tim Alexander of Primus on the drums; the moment of their frontman’s arrival had not yet occurred, however, and Brother Ed and Brother Ant returned to the stage to give him a grand, heartfelt welcome.
I am 100% certain that, while they were expecting Maynard James Keenan to come onstage, the audience was NOT expecting him to ROLL onto the stage on a Segway, wearing a short-hair-and-balding-badly wig and a cranberry-colored satin pajama-track-suit, with the word JESUS spelled out in rhinestones across his behind. That caught more than a few of us off guard.
Undaunted, the band chugged right along into a long, introductory version of “Sour Grapes” as Keenan rolled around onstage, filling the empty space between his lines with improvised drivel designed to placate the (apparently) terrified Brother Ed and Brother Ant, who were still wandering about the stage in a bit of a daze. Keenan rolled away as the song continued, no doubt soon to return as the Brothers exited in the opposite direction, and the band knocked out the final notes of the song. Soon after was their second song of the night Puscifer’s first song ever written, “Rev 22:20″ which, for the most part, involved only the backing band, until Keenan returned in a grey pinstripe suit, red tie, and flashy sunglasses, the horrid wig gone from his shiny pate as he entered with a swagger.
Despite being the leader of the pack, Keenan stayed towards the back of the stage; there were two microphones in the rear center of the stage, each set behind a monitor that must have had a small camera behind it, because Keenan’s face was clearly visible (albeit distorted as if one were seeing him in a fish-eye lens) each time he went behind a monitor to sing. The set continued on, pausing every few songs for a video segment. These featured either Keenan in his Jesus-jamas, in some sort of strip club or brothel, drunkenly preaching about the virtues of “toeing the line of temptation”, or a documentary or news segment about “the growing cult of Bob”, which generally took its time to poke fun at religious zealous, scene kids, and all manner of annoying prudes in the world.
The set was nearly entirely comprised of songs from the band’s first full-length release, “V Is For Vagina”, with a few extra songs thrown in: “Trekka” from their online-only release Don’t Shoot The Messenger, and the four new songs from their forthcoming EP, C is for (Insert Sophomoric Genitalia Reference HERE). Of these, “Polar Bear”, and the show’s closer “The Humbling River” garnered the greatest response from the crowd. Throughout the set, members of the band who were not actively playing instruments lounged on the leather couches; in between singing his lines, Keenan poured glasses of his wine to each of the musicians, while helping himself to the supply directly from the bottles themselves. The previously mentioned “The Humbling River” closed out the night, with the entire collective perched upon the couches while Keenan introduced them all to the cheering, chanting crowd.
Puscifer returns tomorrow night to the Fox Theater, as does Uncle Scratch’s Gospel Revival Band. My only new wish is to hear the only song in their catalog not yet played at the show: the western comedy ballad “Cuntry Boner”; even if this doesn’t happen, I was thrilled to see the performance tonight. There are two ways to experience the Puscifer live performance; one is by watching the band onstage and trying to take in their garish outfits, over-the-top comedy routines, and Keenan’s drier-than-sandpaper wit; the other is to keep one’s eyes shut tight and feel the powerful punch of the industrial music moving through your body. I was able to do both, and it made it one of the most intriguing shows of the year.
Review by HardRockChick
Acid Trip, Velvet Tongue: Puscifer, Uncle Scratch’s Gospel Revival @ Fox Theater Oakland, 11/4/09
Maynard James Keenan brought his side show to Oakland for the first of two nights of high brow/low brow entertainment. It proved to be a night unlike any other.
Earlier this year, I had to miss the LA Puscifer shows due to a family emergency, so it was nice to be able to make up the show before the year’s end. I had considered doing the wine tasting or meet and greet that was offered for this show, but was unable to….however, I started off my year with both (sorta) at my local Whole Foods anyway.
Umlaut, Photo Ray, and I walk up to the Fox Theater to encounter a ‘protest’ out front. Two guys holding signs that say ‘Satan is a Real Douchebag’ and ‘Jesus Thinks Your Music Sucks’ are preaching to a small crowd of people waiting to get inside. One of them looks exactly like MJK…..but I’m skeptical. These guys are going on about Jesus and the Devil, picking on people in the crowd and telling them to lay their tickets down and go home. It’s funny, but I can’t stop trying to figure out if that’s really MJK. Then two separate people walk up to me and go, ‘you know that’s Maynard, right?’. Theses are guys in Tool shorts. So I’m convinced, and stand their mouth agape at the fact that MJK is actually doing this. Especially when he picks on a girl in a NIN t-shirt- ‘what is that, some kind of satanic emblem?’, and then picks on all the band tees in the crowd, including the Tool ones. It goes on for a good 15-20 minutes, until they finally decide it’s time to start the show inside.
The GA area of the Fox Theater had been lined with seats, which set an entirely different tone for the evening. We had great seats for press tickets, at the back of the GA pit. We were allowed to shoot pictures from the bar of the first tier….which was a little weird. But I was kinda glad, because the night before I had a nightmare that my flash accidentally went off and MJK got really angry with me.
The debate about whether the guy out front was MJK or not was ongoing in my twitter feed, but once Uncle Scratch’s Gospel Revival came out, I knew the guy out front was indeed the drummer. They continued their tongue in cheek Jesus-preaching through their set decor and songs….which somewhat reminded me of Captain Clegg from last night’s show. ‘Back Door Man No More’ and ‘Gimme Back My Bible’ entertained the crowd….especially this one guy who was hootin’ and hollerin’ and flailing his arms in the air moving around the aisle near his seat. Dude was definitely in an altered state.
As the set ended, this god-awful R&B song came on- a friend working the venue said that MJK instructed the sound guy to play this song a lot. It was something like this. (That was painful to google. And seriously- is that site some kind of weird ARG?)
The set begins with a video introduction from MJK, mainly stressing NO CAMERAS. He hates them…so much so that he is hardly on stage for the two songs we are allowed to shoot. The band starts trickling out onto the set: a living room setup in the middle, two television monitors at the rear, and a drum set on each side. Tim Alexander comes out in a ’70s suit, followed by a bassist and two guitarists. The bassist, Matt McJunkins, and the other drummer, Jeff Friedl, are from Ashes Divide. Two female singers set up behind the TV monitors- they sing behind them with their faces projected on to the monitors, making them look like real life bobbleheads. They start with ‘Sour Grapes’, and MJK eventually comes out on a Segway in a track suit with a bad combover. Let the headscratching begin.
I was totally into it, but then again, I love Lynch films and this was like seeing a country fried version play out on stage. Plus, I’ve actually heard the music. I think a lot of people in the crowd didn’t realize they were coming to see something so different from Tool and APC.
The musicians are constantly shifting about- when not playing, they are on the couches surfing on a Mac (actually, they were tweeting on MJK’s account), eating an apple, cheese, bread, and drinking wine. Then when it came time for their part, they would get up and return to their playing position.
Puscifer highlights MJK’s amazing voice in a way that his other bands have not- it’s pure and stripped down. His voice….does things to me….it’s so beautiful that he could literally sing anything and I’d listen, which is basically what he does here. There will be beautiful, profound lyrics followed by vagina, kidney stones, and blow job references. It’s beautiful and it’s crass, a combination that didn’t sit well with many in the crowd.
Songs are flanked by skits on the screen- many of gross old man creeper MJK in the track suit with a trio of strippers, with a guest star spot from a giant dildo. They add to the multimedia feel of the set- this isn’t really a concert, it’s performance art.
MJK walks around pouring wine for his band, into those stemless glasses. He drinks from the bottle. He rarely looks at the crowd, which is good, because people are conferring on what the hell is going on all throughout the set, and the back half is empty. It breaks my heart.
The songs sound amazing live. MJK’s voice takes my breath away. The setlist meanders from the psycho disco rock grooves of ‘DoZo’ to the stunning, soul wrenching ‘Momma Sed’, and continues this pattern through ‘Queen Bee’, ‘Polar Bear’, and onto ‘The Humbling River’. ‘Queen Bee’ roused some of the audience out of their seats to dance, which in turn revealed the others in an altered state. One woman started working her way up the aisle forming letters with her arms…it was weird.
The hour and a half set was an interesting trip for those open minded enough to it. Word on the street is that they’ll mix it up from night to night for those attending back to back shows.
Photo by JessicaSarahS
Review by Doug Bedford at The Owl Mag
What do we want? Vagina! When do we want it? Now!” For those of us who were at the Puscifer show at Oakland’s Fox Theater on Nov 4th, we aided this chant at the start of the show.
Puscifer is one of the musical projects of the alt rock deity “Maynard” James Kennan. We all know Maynard from such bands as Tool and A Perfect Circle, where he is the front man. Puscifer, however, is a band that is all of his own fruition, self described as where his “Id, Ego, and Anima all come together...”
While the musical deviation is something many Maynard’s fans are adjusting to, what attracts the core audience is his voice and his stage presence. His voice is emotional and confrontational while he himself is mysterious and reserved.
The show was an Avant-garde rock show. Throughout the concert, Maynard sung behind a 20-inch black and white television that projected his face, while the live band either played their instruments or sat center stage on couches and enjoyed wine and cheese (Who does that!?). And yes, this performance was still compelling and captivating.
The show worked because of its reluctant star, Maynard, who has mastered the art of hiding in plan site behind a wall of music (or television). He knows how to keep his fans intrigued as well as entertained.
Puscifer songs that stood out in during the performance are “Polar Bear,” “Indigo Children,” “The Undertaker,” and “The Humbling River.”