Photo by Colin Colfer

The demons inside of Man Man must really be clinging to its members’ souls, because a Man Man show is the same exorcism-like event it has been for years. Frontman Honus Honus has a stage presence like a drunken Grand Wizard without all the hate, wailing from behind a keyboard or on top of a speaker with arms spread wide, and the rest of the band circulates between different handmade instruments, yelping and pounding and jangling like long-haired, bearded imps.

The stage was crowded with a strange collection of noise-making contraptions that looked like the band had crafted them by hand in the members’ garages: the back end of a tiny bright green bicycle here, a bouquet of balloons there, a drum painted neon and psychedelic, a large and industrial-looking blowpipe. It’s as if Honus and his gang spend hours in a cellar yelling and hitting things and building new devices to bang or jangle or blow into, and then they bring the ones that work in some fashion onstage. In 2008 I saw Honus Honus climb the rafters of San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall to blast a beer bong like a horn into an audience member’s face and drummer Pow Pow take a furious bite from a chocolate bunny he had screwed onto his drum set without breaking rhythm; in Brooklyn some three years later the band tossed confetti into the crowd, played a ten gallon water cooler jug like an African drum, and rattle on an aluminum canister held high in the air.

Over the years the band has developed a tight-knit and highly communicative performance. Honus Honus and Pow Pow sit facing each other at the front of the stage, and during loud crashes of sound they leap from their seats in unison, holding eye contact with one another. Before delving into “Black Mission Goggles,” the five band members group in the middle of the stage to jangle maracas and what looked like rings of keys like a midgame huddle, and by the end of the song Pow Pow is the last man standing, the rest of them disappeared or curled on the floor. Throughout the set, band members and guest vocalists filter from instrument to instrument and duck offstage without causing a moment of disturbance. By now Man Man has performed its exorcism so many times you’d think the bandmates’ souls would be spackle-free, but it seems they’ve just become practiced at their liturgy.

The audience, although stuffed, was not riotously energetic the way Man Man can incite a crowd to be. No reckless whirlpools of mosh pits swirled into existence, but from the dense, sweaty, and pulsating mass hands held up unreadable signs on printer paper and howled along to “Engwish Bwudd.” As the throng whistled the melody to Man Man’s closing number, “Van Helsing Boombox,” the peripherals of the House Of Vans became scattered with the wasted, the passed out, and even the vomiting, those who had dragged themselves to the back walls like old pigeons slithering into gutters to die. Outside, overheated audience members stripped off their drenched shirts and launched into drunken conversations. “That’s the circle of life, the circle of drugs, and the circle of shows,” one girl told her friends on the way up Kent Avenue. And then, “I want something juicy and meaty and tender.” Me too.

Photos by Colin Colfer
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