First came the rain. Then the sleet and the ice. The pine trees clinking like Christmas ornaments, the school closings and blown transformers and traffic pileups on the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge. But no matter, as Nobunny stripped off his jeans, dug his toes into a white shag rug, dropped the mic down the front of his assless panties and left his garage-rock lovestain on Wilmington, NC.
Despite severe weather warnings and urging by local officials to stay off the roads, roughly 65 people attended the rabbit-masked crusader’s show at The Calico Room last night, the smallest show he’s played on the current Lovestains Across America tour. “No, it’s just an intimate show,” Nobunny told guitarist Bobby Hussy before the set, reframing the scenario positively. Earlier that evening, the show’s promoter, Fred Champion, announced via Facebook that—sleet or shine—the show would go on. Prior to the storm, he expected the show to sell out. The next morning, as 6500 residents in the Wilmington area waited for their lights to surge back on, he remarked, “I can’t believe as many people came out as they did.” According to Champion, Nobunny plans to cancel tonight’s show in Atlanta due to weather.
Nobunny—aka Justin Champlin—took the stage around 10 p.m. following local act Deadly Lo-Fi and a short set by Nobunny’s backing band, The Hussy, a duo from Wisconsin who’ve released some of the better psych-trash recs of the last couple years. Donning the mask and a tasseled black jacket with his name bejeweled across the back, Nobunny kicked off the set with Bye Bye Roxie, the first track off his latest album, Secret Songs: Reflections from the Ear Mirror. Launched by a short and grungy guitar riff, the song evoked the Ramones and other late-70s/early-80s punk: percussion-laden and drowned in junkyard distortion. Throughout the song, Champlin snaked through a crowd of well-behaved head-boppers, a blend of plaid and peacoats. “This one’s called ‘NOBUNNY Loves You,’” he said before the next song. “Oh, and this is our first time here, by the way.”
A slipshod appropriation of Nobody But Me by the Human Beinz called Nobunny Loves You showcased The Hussy’s background vocals, with drummer Heather Hussy’s candy-coated voice adding a welcome high note to the performance. But while they backed Nobunny with a steady hand, they steered the focus always toward the mask, never stepping out to sling their own solos or pitch a wild stunt. When Nobunny stripped off his Levis, cupped his genitals and twirled the mic, The Hussy barely seemed to notice. Heather, who wore a gray t-shirt promoting her Bobby Hussy’s other band, Fire Retarded, looked altogether unimpressed for the duration of the hour-long set, as if the cross-country tour had wholly desensitized her to Nobunny’s scrotum-crazed cabaret.
Infamous for these antics, Nobunny seemed to meet the crowd’s expectations, though he probably didn’t exceed them. He tossed half a glass of beer into the crowd, spit the rest out in short squirts over their heads. He used the microphone stand to punch an iPhone out of one man’s hand. He spent the majority of the show a few stray strands away from nude, frequently fingering his panty straps and tossing his hands wantonly above his head. But the room never filled, the crowd remained merely polite—if not altogether sober—and though the music delivered, Jack Frost’s last-minute arrival seemed to pacify the atmosphere.
Around 10:45, NOBUNNY announced their last song: “I don’t know what it’s called,” he said. “But there’s probably a couple chords and a beat. You can probably dance to it.” The band proceeded to play I Am A Girlfriend, a song from the 2008 album, Love Visions, which drew in the crowd with a crazed call and response. And finally, they capped off it all off with a tune called, simply, I Can’t Wait. “Okay, this is our last song,” he said again. “The lyrics are, ‘oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah.’”
Photos by Ryan Geoffrey Smith.