(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Concert review - Magic Cyclops, Har Mar Superstar

13 October 2009 (Hi Dive, Denver CO)
Things started late at the Hi Dive, not getting underway until 10:20pm. So, there was a lot of time to kill before the show. I ran into Har Mar Superstar next door at Sputnik and said hi, but didn't really interrupt him.

Magic Cyclops
Magic Cyclops is originally from Iowa, but lately, he's been performing up and down the Front Range. His act is as much performance art as it is music or comedy or anything else. Kicking things off with, "The show is, thus, started..." in an abominable English accent, he performed rap and other vocals over prerecorded songs. The songs were short and usually funny (but always odd), embracing an amateur aesthetic. Song titles included Teen Pregnancy: Don't do it, Online Predator, and I am the Sex. The music was synthesizer driven and simple, sometimes with vocals already dubbed in. Most of his vocals were fairly processed to shift pitch etc.

Make no mistake, though, this act was not really about the music. It was really about the character he played: "the future of music in one man's father's basement". Self-deprecating, yet convinced of his own animal magnetism, the effect was campy. With gyrations to work the remote control for his laptop, nailing his crotch with the mike, and his accent slipping in and out, it was a crazy show, like Flight of the Conchords with lower quality music. The show ended covering Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart to great effect.

Magic Cyclops was silly, fun, and worth catching if you know what to expect. He'll be playing again at Hodi's Halfnote (Ft. Collins) this Thursday (October 14 2009), and presumably other shows around.

Har Mar Superstar

My preview more or less sets the stage. The short version is that Har Mar Superstar performs R&B/funk/dance club music, playing a much sexier version of himself than is immediately visible. He's serious about the music, which is well written, arranged, and performed, but he has a great sense of humor when it comes to his lyrics and his stage show. For this show, he had a backing band (Jeff Quinn on guitar, Will Scott on drums, and Denver Dalley on bass) whose primary job was to accent the pre-recorded tracks for the songs.

Har Mar's CD, Dark Touches, was also released on Tuesday and he played a lot of songs off the album. Don't Ask, Don't Tell was a funky R&B number with heavy club beats. He sang Girls Only, written for the Cheetah Girls, pumping up GRRL power with absolute sincerity and no self consciousness.

That sincerity is key to his show. The character he plays is sexy, confident, powerful, and attractive. Har Mar is quite comfortable within the skin of this character and this frees him to shake his booty, strip down, and work the crowd while ignoring what anyone may think about his physique or how hokey it might look. The result is completely the opposite of Magic Cyclops: it's not campy, it's great fun, and girls are convinced that he is sexy and attractive. As hard as that might be to believe from these pictures.

A couple of other great songs were a rap number, Creative Juices (wonderful name checking: "streetcar named Desire-a Glass"), and an older number, Power Lunch (exposing his business woman fetish). The lyrics were clever and the beats were infectious. He wrapped up with a cover of Boyz II Men's It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday, which moved the audience to sing along. A perfect ending to a great show.

Har Mar Superstar deserves his own drink, but in the meantime I'll go with gin and tonic, with a splash of of OJ.

More pictures on my Flickr.

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