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Review Sun Oct 09 2011

Review: Man Or Astroman? @ Metro, 10/8

It'd be understandable for a person to initially raise an eyebrow when someone says, "Hey, I'm going to see a (mostly) instrumental surf rock band from Auburn, Alabama." On the surface, that doesn't sound terribly exciting. However, the fear that it'll be dull should be quelled before the band in question even plays. You see, Man or Astroman performs on a stage that looks like a punk rock astronaut's workspace - a mishmash of neon tubes, spinning lights, hexagonal and triangular screens, a Tesla coil and theremin (that were used within minutes of each other to close out the night), a half-orb covering floor lighting and too many pieces of computer equipment to name. (This is also a band who collected television sets on a tour. If I recall correctly, donating a television over 25" wide got you into a show for free.)

Now, it should also be noted that Man or Astroman's been on and off for the last few years - playing a handful of shows, but never touring much. And it showed in some songs where they sounded raw and even borderline proficient. A few times they stopped to fix gear, get in the right key or make other adjustments. Sometimes they simply weren't on the same page at all. But when they were on and that muscle memory kicked in on songs they've been playing for nearly 20 years, it didn't sound like they'd been off. (They hardly played anything from the last few albums that divided fans, instead digging way back for almost all of their 60-minute set.) The surf/punk/new wave hybrid that they developed, which some other bands tried to gank and never quite got right, has a lot of energy embedded in it. While the band members aren't as spastic as they once were they're still pretty energetic, especially Coco the Electronic Monkey Wizard (not his real name, actually) on bass. He's the one who talks most and seems to be the funniest. Whether it's scoffing at linear time or talking about cryogenic freezing, Coco always stays in character and appears to be having a blast.

In a tribute to Steve Jobs, Coco wheeled out an Imagewriter II to perform the technological marvel "A Simple Text File", even miming drum fills. Also highlighted in the second half was a cover of the Rezillos' "Destination Venus." It's a perfect cover for them, seeing as how it's already fast-paced and space-related. However, of all of the audio clips to skip (and they played just about every clip from every other song), that one just happens to be one of my favorites as a girl asks Venetians about their stay on Earth in some daytime talk show parody. Also, incredulously, they missed an opportunity to use the vocals of new female member, Avona Nova, during the Fay Fife parts of its chorus. But these are small gripes because, even if I've seen them better numerous times, they still bring a tremendous life to their music and rile up a crowd that's at times literally listening to manipulated Star Wars sound effects and some Ventures-like guitars in a punk aesthetic.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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