In mid march, the week before my twenty-first birthday, Man Man toured Chicago in support of their 2004 debut album, The Man In A Blue Turban With A Face. Despite risking certain persecution from venue doormen, I attempted to talk my way into the show in hopes I might actually see what I knew would be an unbelievable live performance. Unfortunately, things didn't work out as I had planed and instead I spent that frustrating evening listening to the band from alley behind venue. So it was with great pleasure that on Wednesday I was able to relive that dramatic episode as a legal spectator. It was a show that had been well worth the wait, living up to any hype I may have unconsciously instilled while brooding over my initial rejection. Man Man are a treat for the senses. Their eccentric nuances scream modern vaudeville, and frankly, I'm convinced lead vocalist Honus Honus is a musical genius.
Man Man has galvanized for a triumphant return with the release of their sophomore record, Six Demon Bags. This most recent release is perhaps a slightly leaner excursion of their previous full-length. More defined and perhaps slightly darker, Man Man still retain the unique aspects of their music that make them so incredibly exciting - down-and-out chorus sections that bleed together like drunken sailor songs, coupled with frantic piano melodies that leave a jazzy after taste. Man Man's off beat chord progressions and choice of eclectic instruments shows signs of Zappa-esque inspiration, but the range of influence is so diverse that numerous musical icons could be selected as potential pigeonholes.
Man Man is its own musical entity, and while in the act of performing, its members transform music into feeling. Their Wednesday show at Subterranean was an epic display of talent and passion that thrilled the crowd. Dressed all in white, the rather hairy bunch of musicians captivated an ecstatic audience. Man Man makes music to move to, music that beckons even the shyest of patrons to stand up and participate. Needless to say this made for a very interesting night, as everywhere I looked Chicago hipsters were sweating to Man Man like the over weight to Richard Simmons. It was an almost liberating feeling, and for me personally, a great welcoming of the summer season. All the while the loud bellowing sound of Honus Honus' rusty voice could be heard and appreciated... even on the balcony row where I stood.
Man Man swooned the audience with a hefty show that included numerous tracks from both of their albums. Brief pauses between songs gave me a chance to catch my breath after attempting to forcefully belt the lyrics to some of my favorite numbers. The whimsical spurts of improvisational tangents were intoxicating, making the live show a spectacle and a memorial experience. Man Man isn't just a band, it also a traveling circus. Entertaining and exhilarating, Man Man earned the cover charge in Chicago.