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30 March 2010

On Tour With Puscifer
Milwaukee, Pabst Theater

Sour Grapes
Rev 22:20
The Undertaker
Drunk With Power
Momma Sed
Indigo Children
Vagina Mine
Polar Bear
Queen B
The Mission
The Humbling River

Photos by Matt Schwenke

Review by Matt Schwenke

A curiously creative show

It's hard to imagine the creative breadth of an artist who is part of an iconic rock band, a successful supergroup side project and the co-founder of a wine making operation and still seeks another avenue for artistic expression, but Puscifer is exactly that for singer Maynard James Keenan: his "island of misfit ideas who've found no home with Tool, A Perfect Circle, or Caduceus." The result is another artistic outpouring that, while notably different from his other endeavors, can be held up to the same level of artistry.

With Keenan's "Major Douche" persona warming up the Pabst Theatre crowd with a pre-recorded film appearance projected on a large backdrop, which provided instant comic relief and coaxed the crowd into chanting "VA - GI - NA," the revolving cast of musicians marched in file on to the stage dressed as men of the cloth, with singer Carina Round as a nun and percussionist Jeff Friedl as a pope wearing a robe that read "I [heart] Cock" on the back. "Religion" is one of three themes carried out on the tour (besides "Vagina Airlines" and "Country," and features, among others religiously charged antics on film, video clips of Keenan as various questionable characters.

As part of the religious sideshow, some chairs and a table with a laptop, food, wine, and bobblehead Jesus figurine were set up in front of the musicians, and as Keenan and Round took their places behind two video screens that were set at head level and magnified their heads through live fish-eye lens video capture from the other side, Puscifer had already made a striking impression before a single note was even played or sung. This type of multimedia assault, which included the edgy Kaufman-like comedian Neil Hamburger as the opening act, is what Keenan was reportedly aiming for in the multiple themed performances- a troupe, not just a band.

On the tail end of the spring tour in support of the sophomore release "C" Is for (Please Insert Sophomoric Genitalia Reference HERE), which contains two live tracks from the debut EP "V" is for Vagina, the set began with "Sour Grapes," an airy, semi-goth tune, and followed closely in suit with the slow strut of "Polar Bear." Playing along to a tightly scripted film and audio track, drummer Tim Alexander, of Primus lore, kept the rhythm in check with ease and Friedl carried the live element out further, playing percussion in-between serving Keenan ceremonial wine and crackers and other papal duties.

Standing out among the musical offerings were "Momma Sed," which featured Keenan crooning to an entrancing bass line played by Mat Mitchell and alongside some hair-raising slide soloing on guitar by Jonny Polonsky, as well as "Vagina Mine," which put the programmed audio to great use with extra vocals being panned as the song reached its churning rock ending. The most notable part of the music aspect of this show, however, was the vocal work between Keenan and Round, especially in the melodic, modern-day cowboy's/cowgirl's lament "The Humbling River."

Just before the end, Keenan stepped down from his pompous rock star character, introduced the musicians, referenced his roots on the other end of the ferry line across Lake Michigan and offered what could only be taken as genuine appreciation for the crowd's support. "We're doing this with no label, no management, just us," he said. The crowd, though tentatively waiting for an encore that wouldn't come and that a regular concert almost demands, gave good applause as the credits rolled and seemed more than content that they had just witnessed a curiously creative show, and not just a concert. Friday. At least when it comes to being a professional.

Photos by Opal In The Rough

Review by DJ Hostettler

Anyone expecting the dark, atmospheric alt-metal stylings of Tool from Maynard James Keenan’s jokey side-project Puscifer Tuesday night at Pabst Theater must have been gobsmacked when the band’s set opened with a video where the singer, decked out as the Patton-esque “Major Douche”, led the crowd in a rousing roar of “VAGINA!” The cheeky tone of the evening was sealed when the band conga-lined out to the stage dressed in a variety of priest, nun, and pope outfits. Of course, this is a band with albums like V Is For Vagina and “C" Is For (Please Insert Sophomoric Genitalia Reference HERE), so it’s not like Keenan could be accused of false advertising.

The Puscifer live experience is part rock band, part multimedia comedy show, featuring a number of sketches introducing a cast of characters spoofing that age-old nemesis of rock and roll, organized religion. It’s a cute, timeless theme, if not one that’s been done to death over the years by Alice Cooper, Al Jourgensen, and Marilyn Manson, among others. (A note to all future musical multimedia malcontents—you can’t use a character named “Bob” in your religion-skewering rock show and have it not be a Church Of The Subgenius reference.)

Still, the band’s darkly comic not-quite-goth-rock had the Pabst faithful quickly on its feet. Drummer Tim Alexander (who normally keeps time for Primus) impressively kept the band in sync with the prerecorded video and audio clips as the rest of the band chugged along. Keenan took a spot in the back of the stage with vocalist Carina Round, who was dolled up as the Sexy Nun from any number of winning Halloween parties. Semi-hidden between a pair of magnifying screens that exaggerated their features fisheye-style, the two harmonized beautifully while the occasional band member took a break to chill on couches, take sacramental wine from a fake Pope—nice product placement there, Maynard!—or play on a laptop. It was an entertaining spectacle despite the subject matter being a bit tired. (We get it—religion is one big fart joke; we don’t need video of a statue literally talking out its ass to make that point even more clear).

When the band moved away from the religious theme later in the set and stuck to simply rocking out, the material improved drastically. Standout “The Mission” benefited from Round’s smoky, jazz-infused vocals while the boys backed her up with the looping refrain “what do you know?” The house lights then came up and Keenan took a moment to thank everyone for coming out, showing genuine appreciation for the crowd’s love. “We’re doing this with no label, no management, just us,” he said. The band then closed with the haunting “The Humbling River,” a gorgeous showcase for the vocals and lyrical prowess that put Keenan in the position to be able to do this DIY gig in the first place. “I’ve conquered country, crown and throne/Why can’t I cross this river?” Easily the best line and best song of the night.

After witnessing the headlining carnival show, the presence of opening act Neil Hamburger made a lot more sense. In larger venues opening for rock bands, “America’s Funnyman” tends to confound audiences with his Kaufman-esque brand of post-modern “so bad it’s uncomfortably hilarious” stand-up “comedy.” Any hopes for a confrontational showdown with a heated, abusive audience were dashed as soon as he walked out to cheers. This was a crowd hip to Hamburger’s shtick, and after a solid 15-minute run of Red Hot Chili Pepper jokes (“What did the Red Hot Chili Peppers do when their management didn’t like their latest tracks? They put long-sleeve shirts on”) the crowd was laughing so hard that any attempt by Hamburger to shout down a “heckler” came off as disingenuous. Still, it’s always entertaining to hear Hamburger yell “shut the fuck up, you asshole!” even if the heckler is in on the joke. After all, who doesn’t love an accomplished potty mouth?

Photo by Ramiro Rodriguez

Review at ruiajesus blogspot

Okay, this was a show that we decided to go to because we were curious. We were almost not gonna go. I had heard a few of the tracks on their website, and it was interesting. I noticed my taste in music is beginning to broaden. On the album, they have a lot of electronic sounds and samples. Something that would have immediately turned me off from the band a few years ago. But I would listen to their music they have up on their website at work while I was working and it grew on me. We ordered their CD, and gave it a listen. I still had no idea what to expect live. Just Maynard with a keyboard/synth and a DJ? A couple musicians + Maynard? I really had no clue. And I was in for a surprise. Neil Hamburger opened the show, a comedian(anti-comedian actually haha). And his jokes were so abrasive and tasteless that it was funny. He must have done 15 minutes of RHCP and Anthony Kiedis jokes, a good 5 minutes of Courtney Love jokes and he also had the time to do some Madonna, 311, and I don't know what other jokes. And he also destroyed anyone's attempt at heckling, this guy was something else haha I have never seen anything like it. Then Puscifer came out, and wow...

It was like a huge Saturday Night Live show, but with a band playing to most of the skits. There was 7 musicians total, of which there was usually 4-6 playing at one time. A female singer that took center stage with Maynard, the Primus drummer, and some other musicians that I was not familiar with their other bands. It was almost as if there was a movie/skit going on and they were the soundtrack to it. There was a couch and tables, and a laptop on stage(front and center) that the musicians that were not playing during a certain song would sit at and drink some wine.

And the TV that Maynard and the girl would sing behind were really cool.

The music was just amazing. I would never have guessed it, but this is one of the best concerts I have ever been to. It was that good. In Maynard we trust lol. What a contrast from what I had just seen the previous Friday. At least when it comes to being a professional.