Man or Astro-man? – Crescent Ballroom, Phoenix, AZ 8/12/15 (SHOW REVIEW)

Somewhere out in the far reaches of the Universe the Voyager probe was well received and has returned to us in the form of Man or Astro-Man?, an eclectic mix of surf rock with punk energy and a mix of sound bites from early sci-fi film. Imagine the outcome that would occur if you locked Dick Dale in room with copious amounts of LSD, a couple of guitars and a VCR that continually played early space film from the 60’s and 70’s, then asked him to write a score.

Man or Astro-Man? has a rich history of weird. Starting before its 1993 LP release of “Is it… Man or Astro-Man?” After extensive touring and five LPs, Man or Astro-Man brain-childed what they called the Man or Astro-man Genome Project in 1998 where the men from outer space cloned themselves and sent out a touring band that was “not them” to play their music under the Man or Astro-Man Clone Tour Alpha. After doing surprisingly well on the  first tour they decided to give it a second go in 1999 using all female clones in a second tour called Man or Astro-man? Project Gamma.

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As they keep trucking on a non-stop tour since 2010, “Star Crunch” on guitar (AKA Brian Causey), Birdstuff on drums (AKA Brian Teasley) and Coco the Electric Monkey on strange bass with sampler pad (AKA Robert DelBueno) continued the voyage to Phoenix. While no tesla coils were brought to the stage as in previous shows, the August 12th show at Crescent Ballroom was as strange as it was fun, keeping with the band’s rich oddball history.

MOAM?’s set started out high energy giving all that they had, but after the opening song, left the stage saying goodnight to all. They momentarily came back and explained that they were willing to do a 70 minute encore, given the crowds’ response. The people spoke and the music went on for over the 70 minute mark. It was an act done in jest that pushed the bands particular sense of humor and an audience ice breaker –  “Everyone relax…we came from outer space to have a good time.”

Coko donned in his space suit and helmet which he removed rather early on in the set, was quick with quips in the audience banter. Birdstuff played steady and seamlessly through the entire set. Never once did the drummer ever seem to be “at work” while keeping the band going. Star Crunch, on guitar seemed a little off in keeping with the bands overall demeanor of happy madness, but still played true and tight to all that was going on. After 20 years of music and clone making the band seemed playful overall.

Mid-set the band was joined by Toto Miranda on guitar (of the Octopus Project). In years past at this particular venue MOAM? were joined by Yvonne Lambert and Josh Lambert of the Octopus Project, Yvonne adding a sometimes spooky sometimes melodical element with her theremin, and now Toto adding his dynamic of fresh energy to push the overall tidal wave forward. Toto’s involvement did not overshadow his band mates nor undercut his own ability, as the set went on like a frozen rope but with more layers and more push.

The show ended with Coco jumping off stage, soon to be followed by Birdstuff. Coco carrying his space helmet and allowing any photo op available to any member of the crowd who was brave enough to catch their head inside of it. Birdstuff, meanwhile pulled the bass amp off stage and placed it in the middle of the crowd, building a tower of broken drum parts on top of it that ended in a high hat stand and a broken drum head as a conceivable halo to end the set.   It was refreshing for everyone see a band play with great showmanship, crowd interaction and a lack of rockstar ego after a long and prolific career of pushing boundaries and reveling in the realms of the obscure.

 

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