Man Man is not a band to condone ethnic slurs, so to call its music punk-wop is just not going to cut it. Even though the band is Philly born, its sound is laden with falsetto-driven doo-wop arrangements and a general predilection for hip-swaying soul, which makes this Saturday’s show in Detroit all the more appropriate – even if the Masonic Temple doesn’t seem like the ideal spot for a feather-flying musical blitzkrieg.
In the words of keyboardist Honus Honus, the band plays “kitchen-sink pop,” though it seems necessary to add several other genre suggestions, such as honky-tonk runaway-train music or mustachioed R&B. The bottom line is that Man Man is a multifaceted ensemble, often spinning dark, ravenous tales with the quirkiness of Captain Beefheart, the coolness of Tom Waits and the tenderness of Etta James.
In addition to Honus, the other band members each have their proper nicknames -Pow Pow, Cougar, Sergei Sogay and Chang Wang round out the full group.
“Pseudonyms are pretty stupid. So that’s why we have some of the worst ones possible,” Honus said.
The instruments these gents play are equally far-reaching, including euphonium, melodica and a surprising amount of xylophone. The resulting sound on their sophomore release Six Demon Bag is heavily percussive, sometimes chaotic and totally exhilarating. But Man Man’s penchant for raucous, rambunctious behavior is significantly heightened in its live performances.
Honus describes the band’s rapid-fire live performances as “truncated bombasticon,” usually marked by constant jumping, immediate transitions between songs and loads of war paint. But on this particular tour, as the opening act for indie sages Modest Mouse, Man Man is asked to fill out a longer set in much bigger venues. Nonetheless, the boys seem prepared and excited for the opportunity.
“It’s totally great. Our 30-minute set works, we’ll see if our 40-minute does,” Honus said, adding, “If given a ginormous stage, we’re still gonna play in the center of it. But (with the bigger venue space). I can kind of spread my wings a little bit.”
This upcoming year holds several significant events for the band. In addition to touring with Modest Mouse, Man Man just recently signed with Anti-Records to distribute their third album in early spring 2008. When the band finishes up this tour in the next couple of weeks, it plans on taking some time off before embarking on an epic “forever-tour” in promotion of their new album. While the album still has several more months of post-production before inevitably leaking, the band doesn’t seem to fully discourage new listeners from procuring their already-existing albums via the Internet, hopefully encouraging interest to see them live.
“In a way it’s good because it makes live bands have to be better,” Honus said. “The proof is in the pudding.”
Pudding indeed. At any rate, the band’s performance this Saturday is sure to be an exuberant bonanza of soul, pop and burly doo-wop barbershop in a setting that poses more of an interesting challenge than a problem. In the words of Honus Honus and the rest of the troupe, “There’s only two bands. So you know, I guess if you want to go get your beer while we’re playing, you’re more than welcome to. But you’ll be hurting our feelings. But that’s fine.”
Saturday at 8 p.m.
At the Masonic Temple