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

Friday, April 26, 2013

Concert review - That 1 Guy with Captain Ahab's Motorcycle Club

25 April 2013 (Hodi's Half Note, Ft. Collins CO)

It's a safe bet that Hodi's offered the most interesting bit of entertainment in the whole city Thursday night. Both acts offered distinctive performances far outside the normal fare, which is exactly what the crowd was looking for. The two have a history of collaboration dating back to a band, The Billy Nayer Show, led by Captain Ahab's Cory McAbee. Mike Silverman (AKA That 1 Guy) was in the band when they provided the soundtrack for McAbee's film, The American Astronaut (2001).

When Cory McAbee took the stage, it looked like Captain Ahab's Motorcycle Club was just a fancy name for a solo act, but he immediately clarified that the band is a musical collective and we had all been inducted. On its surface, it was a cheesy act: a guy who looked like an insurance salesman singing karaoke with pre-recorded backing tracks. But McAbee's stage persona -- a mix of P.T. Barnum, Andy Kaufman, and Anthony Hopkins -- transformed it into performance art.

As each song kicked off from the playlist on his phone, McAbee braced himself, then invested himself into the right character with rabid intensity. Whether channeling the sad love interest "Penny Jane", the braggart "20th Century Man", or the quirky "Man Who Swore at a Rainbow", he shifted his body language with an actor's zeal and dove into melodramatic interpretation. While there were moments of true madness or at least unaffectedly strange mannerisms, the overwhelming feel was campy fun. The biggest crowd-pleaser was his cover of A Flock of Seagulls' "I Ran (So Far Away)", which he pitched as the world's oldest "space-cowboy" song.

While the musical collective idea seemed like a fine conceit, McAbee was serious. The project's website includes downloads of all of his tracks and pieces and requests remixes and other contributions. During his set, he even identified whose remixes he was using when it was relevant.

Honestly, if you don't already know who That 1 Guy is or haven't seen his custom instrument, the Magic Pipe, take a moment to research his solo work and Frankenstein Brothers, his project with guitarist Buckethead. Last night's performance demonstrated that his showmanship continues to be top notch as he transformed his strange collection of hardware and computer tech into a musical extravaganza. Sleight of hand flourishes, pantomimed sound effects, and butt shaking grooves continue to be the mainstay of his act, but he must not believe that he's blown his audience's minds enough.

For this tour, he's expanded into multimedia, adding two screens to his stage setup. In keeping with the playful nature of his music, he didn't settle for passive video accompaniment. Instead, he integrated the animations with his playing. Early in the set, the screens just presented music visualizations. Then, he upped the ante by letting the music distort a web-cam video feed of himself. Soon enough, he showed off the full interactive behavior, using trigger buttons on the Magic Pipe to control the animations. This let him play peek-a-boo with cartoon characters in one song and make his puppet image dance in another.

That 1 Guy hit many of his classic tracks, from the silly trippiness of "The Moon Is Disgusting" to the wicked, greasy funk of "Buttmachine". Throughout the set, it was a participatory rite as we all joined in to sing, dance, and echo his rising wolf howl punctuations. The flow of his setlist showed off the range of his material, where the electro-groove of "Mustaches" flowed smoothly int the acid-bluegrass sound of "Step Into Striped Light". His encores continued the mutating drift, from Tuvan throat-singing "acapella dubstep" to a stunning cover of Cameo's "Word Up".

It was also nice to see how well he connected with his audience outside the main show. At the end of the night, he warmly greeted the long line of people at his merch table, dispensing almost as many free hugs as CDs. This tour also offered another new feature, a pre-show for "Magic Mustache Club" VIPs.  The package included a private close-up magic show, a tour tee shirt, and download of his full discography as well as time to hang out with That 1 Guy. I ran into a couple of people who bought the package that really appreciated the time and effort that he took with them.

More photos on my Flickr.

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