Man Man Soaks Its Rowdy Fans' Cigarettes with Sweaty Chaos

Categories: Last Night
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Man Man 
Let's Wrestle
September 7, 2010 
Great American Music Hall 

Better than: Hobo Madness 

Man Man and San Francisco were made for each other. The band's gang-shout vocals, madcap cacophony and random junkyard percussion make up the perfect soundtrack for oddballs, hobos and miscreants. The resulting requiems and tribal drum freak-outs sound like the sort of sad yet manic stuff society's outcasts would make if they got a hold of enough random cheap equipment. And San Francisco is home to mass amounts of oddballs, hobos, and miscreants -- not to mention the thrifty DIY ideals that would be the catalyst for making such music in the first place.

Last night at Great American Music Hall, the combination of the band and the city resulted in a gathering of the smelliest crowd I have ever had the pleasure of being pushed around in. Man Man has very clearly developed a following of fans who spend way more money than a true hobo would be able to afford; many in the audience had apparently seen the band perform several times and were prepared to respond to the stage antics with face paint, random Indian shouts, and sing-alongs. Still, if the majority of Man Man fans in that crowd have homes, they could benefit from learning about deodorant (though with the sort of batshit energy that Man Man inspires, all the smell protection in the world probably isn't enough to fight off the inevitable sweat therapy session.)

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Besides smell, most other senses were stimulated by last night's show, at least both sight (three costume changes, props that included feathers and rubber snakes, and consistently frantic movement from all members of the band), and sound (a set that struck a perfect balance between catchy, slow crawlers and violent, fast brawlers), in contrast to the band's set over the weekend at L.A.'s Fuck Yeah Fest, which was predominantly experimental and abrasive.

Running counter to the survivalist nature of the hobo-ness of Man Man's show last night, however, was the sense of community flowing through the crowd. Once the standard encore-requesting rally of audience noise began, a consistent tempo of claps emerged that refused to stop or break up until the band returned. Some fans in the front row started hitting the percussion instruments on the stage that were within reach, throwing in sub-rhythms within the steady pace and chants of "three more songs," but never once breaking the tempo. Man Man may not be the indie flavor of the week right now, but the band's live shows continue to tap into a rowdy and uplifting feeling in its fans -- a feeling few other bands inspire.

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Critic's Notebook

Random detail: Speaking of bums, you've got to love the band members' preference for taking desperate swigs from a single bottle of Makers Mark in between songs.

Sound report: Standing right in front of a speaker is not the smartest thing in the world when there are moments in the songs with four vocalists simultaneously shouting like banshees into mics. My left ear is still almost completely deaf.

Overhead in the crowd: "My sweat ruined my cigarette!" 

Opener: Britain's Let's Wrestle sounds like its name -- aggressive intentions (the drummer wore a Minor Threat t-shirt, and the band had a few angry songs) but super-cute delivery (a frontman who looks like a chubbier Rivers Cuomo and wore a sweater with flowers on it, plus short catchy songs about simple things). The band's stage demeanor, meanwhile, prefers slacker attitude over everything else. A fun group, but a little plain sometimes.

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