Saturday, September 13, 2014

Concert Review: Man or Astro-man?

Last night my wife and I took a trip to one of Cambridge MA's best new venues for music, The Sinclair, to check out a band I've been a big fan of since college but have never seen live, Man or Astro-man?

And I'm writing about this gig here at Renfusa because between their musical aesthetic (60s surf rock with helping portions of punk and a space-age twist) and their visual aesthetic is right up Renfusa's nostalgia-choked alley.

Man or Astro-man's always been a DIY outfit; some of their members went to college for industrial design, much like another signal outfit of ironic American musico-cultural kitsch, and as such they've had a solid conceptual grounding since their first singles in the early 90s: B-movie science fiction sound samples, the glissando of the American surf idiom, and the detritus of a technology-ridden 20th century.

Last night's show certainly did not disappoint on the musical front: it was a power-packed hour-plus set with theremin duels, light-up cosmonaut helmets, and plenty of anecdotes from the band's early days playing in nerdy Cambridge MA twice a year. But I was personally blown away and left speechless by their video projection display (held together after a long tour with duct tape, which the band, consisting ostensibly of alien invaders, cited as "one of you Earthlings' greatest inventions"), which presented a barrage of Cold War military films, familiar animations and movie sequences (like the classic Charles and Ray Eames-directed "Powers of Ten" and the "Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite" stargate sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey), and found footage-like creepy video loops.

I mean, come on. The only way this video accompaniment for "Name of Numbers" could've been any better is with a Nixie display instead of LEDs:

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