Friday, September 7, 2012

John Maus @ The Independent, San Francisco, 9-3-12

[I know I was supposed to talk more about my honeymoon in Indonesia, but I couldn't get this concert out of my mind.]

When my wife and I bought our $13 tickets to see experimental musician John Maus perform at The Independent in San Francisco last Monday, we were expecting a traditional concert, as much as electronic music can be performed "traditionally."  Keyboards, synthesizers, computer set-up, the maestro himself gyrating behind the microphone, maybe a drummer or bassist to round out the personnel.  You know, like a Moby concert but cheaper.

Well, I ruined the surprise for myself by watching a couple of YouTube videos of Maus' live performances in the days leading up to the show.  Maus was unaccompanied onstage in Sydney, and without a single keyboard or drum machine.  Instead, he sang over his album's ethereal pop music, including his own calmly delivered vocal track, in a series of yelps, screams, and guttural noises, each manipulated by a vocal effects processor.  Even if there is karaoke in hell itself, I couldn't imagine there ever being a more shocking contrast between the original music and the delivered performance.  

The whole show lasted 30 minutes from start to finish, as Maus breathlessly zoomed through 11 songs, all the while frantically jumping to and fro, jerking his head in frenzied motions, and barking his soul-wrenching "AAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"  Imagine your office co-worker going out of his mind, but picking up a microphone instead of a gun.

If that sounds terrible, consider this = at the show's abrupt conclusion, my wife proclaimed, "I wish he could have played longer."

The photos are below.

Silver Swans opened for John Maus.  Originally, I Break Horses was supposed to co-headline with Maus, but not long after tickets went on sale they dropped off the bill.

John Maus performed on a stage devoid of any instruments, save for this device that played his pre-programmed music, directly from his albums.  No mixing of tracks - just straight to the P.A.  The mic seen here was hooked up to an effects box.

One of many screams.

If you're going to headbang the night away, it helps to have a mop of hair.

The list of performers who have genuinely frightened me is very short, but it grew by one tonight.

As you probably noticed, I was at the very front of the stage (which allowed me to nab his shakily written set list).

This was actually a calmer moment for Maus.

The man must burn through calories, jumping the way he does.


He looks a little like Henry Rollins in this shot, except more hardcore (!).

One of many stances; John jackknifed his body constantly during the night.

Is this a sane man?

Assuredly not.

Aerobics with John Maus, Part 1.

It was a relief to see him smile, believe me.

My wife was a fan of the Frankenstein pose.

Wait, is it possible that John isn't insane after all?  A man who knows to limit himself to 30 minutes of this behavior surely has some mental wherewithal.

A last scream into the night, as if to deny my above conclusion.

I don't feel compelled to see John Maus perform again, but I'm surprised at how grateful I feel at having seen him once.  Take that for what it's worth.

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