Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Do You Like The New Look?

Speaking of girls . . . tonight three girls fronting a band called Puro Instinct played The Earl.  The show was opened by another girl, Geneva Jacuzzi.  John Maus, a non-girl, also performed. Three acts, all steeped in '80s new wave and goth, and only one of which could properly be called a "band."

We'll start with Geneva Jacuzzi, the first performer, and before I say anything else, let me first say that I liked her.  But, having got that out of the way, let me ask: did you ever get really stoned and crank up the volume on your music and pantomime singing and performing in front of a mirror in your bedroom?  Put on a little show for only your own amusement?  Were you glad, in retrospect, that no one walked in?  Well, if you answered "yes" to all of those questions, the only difference between you and Geneva Jacuzzi was your answer to that last question, as Ms. Jacuzzi willingly performs on stage, solo, pantomiming to recorded music.  In black leotards and whiteface.

She spent much of the time simply marching back and forth across the stage, other time lip-synching to the songs, and she occasionally ran off the stage and around the club.  She displayed a lot of energy, and she occasionally sang along with the music, mostly '80s goth-rock like The Cure but with the reverb cranked way up. What I liked most about her was that she took an experience common to us all, lip-synching and posing to our favorite songs, and decided to go ahead and make an act of it, while all the rest of us likely just locked our bedroom doors.

But Ms. Jacuzzi wasn't the only performer pantomiming (some would say "lip-synching") to recorded music, as John Maus, the next performer, also took the stage sans band.  Now before describing his act, I should point out that first and foremost, Maus is a thinker. When he's not making music, he's a political philosophy and theory instructor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and is working toward a Ph.D. in political science. Having already obtained degrees from CalArts and The European Graduate School, he makes more references in conversation to philosophers like Hegel, Heidegger, and Marx than to other musicians, and lifted the title of his third album from Badiou's Fifteen Theses on Contemporary Art. His new album is titled We Must Become The Pitiless Censors of Ourselves.   

But for all his intellectualism, nothing can prepare one for Maus' frenzied performances. He punches the air, pulls at his clothes, and hops manically around the stage.  He pounds himself in the head and chest like he's in physical pain or psychological anguish, and screams without a mic in between singing parts. It's been accurately said that he acts like "a kid doing a charade for the word intensity."  Picture vintage Iggy Pop afflicted with Saint Vitus' Dance.  Maus is apparently driven by his passion for music, and his full-throttled embrace of life seems to come from a deep well of angst and inspiration.

On the other hand, it can be said that he was just "singing" (screaming) along to his own recordings on stage. He rarely even finished a song, cutting off the playback as soon as he lost interest in the song being played.  It would be interesting to see him perform with a real, live band, but the sheer energy of his stage performance allowed one to overlook such criticisms.  Genveva Jacuzzi was in the audience dancing with the audience, as were the Puro Instinct girls and the rest of their band. He did manage to whip the crowd into a frenzy.

Puro Instinct, an actual, full, six-member band, were the evening's headliners.  From their studio performances, one would expect their dream-pop sound to have provided a calm, soothing counterpoint to Maus' frenzied performance.

In actuality, they're more lively in person, playing more aggressively and louder.  This was a good thing, as Maus had raised the bar on the energy level considerably.  Geneva Jacuzzi continued to dance with the audience throughout their set as well.  But the young band, three girls and three boys, put on only a half-hearted set.  The reverb, as with the previous acts, was turned all the way up, which sounded good while playing, but one couldn't understand the singer's between-songs banter, during which she seemed at times to be complaining about the heat, and at other times to be either refereeing or egging on a real or imagined tiff between the drummer and some other band member. At one point in their set, the drummer threw a cymbal across the stage for some reason (he didn't seem happy, though).  When they finished their last song, they made it clear that they weren't going to be playing an encore.

It will be interesting to see how this young band evolves.  Puro Instinct themselves are already a reincarnation of a previous band, Pearl Harbor, and it's too soon to tell whether or not they will hold together in this incarnation or reform again in the future.  

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