Puscifer Provide Surreal Escape From North Carolina Legislature in Raleigh (SHOW REVIEW)

No matter your stance on North Carolina’s infamous House Bill 2, there’s no denying that the troublesome legislation has drastically affected the state’s entertainment industry. Millions of municipal dollars have been lost as a collective result of cancellations by Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr, Cirque du Soleil, Boston, and Bryan Adams, while other artists have fulfilled their obligation to perform and donated their profits to organizations that are fighting the bill.

One thing that music-loving North Carolinians can do to help stave off the negative effects of the bill is to get out and consume live music and underscore its importance to the community as well as the economy. Puscifer’s show at Memorial Auditorium fell the night before the Pearl Jam show was to occur, and about 1,500 devotees of Maynard James Keenan turned up on a gorgeous Tuesday evening. Surprisingly, there weren’t many TOOL shirts spotted in the crowd. Puscifer seems to have a singular draw, or perhaps a TOOL shirt at a Maynard event still qualifies as wearing a band’s shirt to the band’s concert.

The crowd seemed positively jovial, possibly overjoyed at not having to endure the disappointment of another canceled show. 10 days before the show, Puscifer made it clear via social media outlets that the show would go on. They even had a special rainbow variant of their logo sticker made. This sort of outward defiance is what the NC music community has been craving, and as an added bonus, the show was a surreal escape from the sobering reality of the situation in the legislature.


It was a bit surprising to have the show begin with a fully-realized, supremely athletic wrestling display, but the majority of the audience didn’t seem to mind, or they already knew to expect it. The band’s VIP ticket holders sat on bleachers flanking a wrestling ring while two pairs of wrestlers slapped, cursed, stomped, and flew through one impressive routine after another. The whole affair was scored by cartoon sound effects, adding to the insanity. Puscifer is Maynard’s playground, and this spectacle was a continuation of the band’s bizarre history, though the novelty wore off after about 15 minutes.

Mercifully, the band began to take the stage (after a video introduction by one of Maynard’s many alter egos, Major Douche) and gradually offered a trio of songs from 2015’s Money Shot album. Opening with the slow build of “Simultaneous”, the band formed around the wrestling ring while Maynard and singer Carina Round took spots inside the ring. A masked, mohawked Maynard moved in his familiar way – crouching, swaying, and gyrating to the thick boil of drums, bass, and guitar. “Galileo” came next and highlighted Round’s ethereal croon.

Unbelievably, the band left the stage after “Agostina”, and the wrestlers came back for more hijinks. Before long, though, the background screen flashed “Act 2” and the band returned for two older tunes – “Vagina Mine” and “Horizons” – before offering two of the best songs from Money Shot, “The Arsonist” and “The Remedy”. The wrestlers began hanging around on stage, dancing and interacting with each other in strange ways. The light show began to take on a different feel for each song, and things really started getting interesting.

Just as the band and audience were starting to get into a flow, the band left again, breaking up the music and sending many attendees scrambling to the restrooms and concession stands. The production was huge and interesting, but the frequent breaks were too much for the music to sustain. Round’s wailing vocals led the churning “Rev 22:20”, and “Grand Canyon” featured the most fitting visuals of the night, as scenes from the namesake natural wonder provided the setting for the song’s reverent lyrics.”Breathe” was appropriately spooky, and “Toma” proved to be the highlight of the show, but the last half hour was a continuous zenith. The dynamic movements of “Telling Ghosts”, the pummeling pairing of “Conditions of My Parole”and “Money Shot”, plus the decidedly TOOL-like “Man Overboard” made for an exhilarating climax to a long, confusing night. There’s precious little room for politics at a Puscifer show, but Maynard did dedicate the encore “The Humbling River” to North Carolina, and one verse in particular was a fitting way to reference and show disapproval of the divisive legislature:

It’ll take a lot more than words and guns
A whole lot more than riches and muscle
The hands of the many must join as one
And together we’ll cross the river

Puscifer Setlist Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, Raleigh, NC, USA 2016, Money Shot Round 2

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