Thursday, November 05, 2009

Cult Of Personality

Puscifer / Uncle Scratch's Gospel Revival
The Fox Theater, Oakland, CA
November 4, 2009

Umlaut has been going to Metal shows almost exclusively this year for one reason or another... so I was looking forward to this show since it would be something completely different.. and it was... for better or worse.

For the newbies: Puscifer is a side project of Maynard Keenan of Tool. The last time I saw Maynard onstage was around the corner at The Paramount when Tool played there in 2006. I basically knew nothing about Puscifer prior to the show, other than Tim Alexander of Primus is one of the drummers. According to Wikipedia, the band's original name was "Umlaut".. Hmmm.

I'm going to break with form here and say I'm simply not motivated to write about Puscifer. It's not that I disliked the music... On the contrary I didn't mind the music at all and I'm a fan of Maynard's vocals... BUT I was not engaged by the presentation at all. I kind of got it.. it was theater... it was social commentary... etc. etc... I simply wasn't in the mood to invest that much effort in it. This is completely 100% on me. Instead of trying to rationalize why I didn't like Puscifer's performance, I'll simply refer you to a positive and informed Puscifer review by Umlaut Nation friend Hard Rock Chick and move on.

The reason I was even at the show was because Uncle Scratch's Gospel Revival (USGR) put me on their guest list via Umlaut Nation and USGR friend Jim (Hey Jim!). USGR are the duo of Brother Eddie and Brother Ant from Cleveland who "preach" the gospel with a wreckless punk rock-like abandon. They remind me of Doo Rag in how they perform low-fi music through low-fi instruments; a USGR motto taped to Ant's cardboard drum kit said "Low Fi On and Jesus High". Ant plays a beaten up Telecaster through tiny amps and Eddie plays "drums" on an amazing combination of cardboard barrels, a snare drum, a cymbal, and an old metal milk crate in place of a hi-hat. Ant sings through a shitty mic and Eddie does backing vocals and addresses the crowd through a megaphone via junky microphones attached to either a harmonica holder around his neck or on a vintage football helmet. Evidently Maynard absolutely loves USGR and he handpicked them to open this tour and they also appear onstage during Puscifer's set.

As we approached The Fox, USGR were out in front *protesting* the show and railing against the "evils" of Rock Music. It was pretty funny, but at the time I didn't realize that most of the crowd thought Brother Ed was Maynard; evidently Maynard appears in a recent Puscifer video and *looks* and acts similar to Brother Ed. I haven't seen the video, but thus began my evening amongst The Cult Of Maynard...

Umlaut with Brother Ant and Brother Ed of Uncle Scratch's Gospel Revival
(Pic by Photo Ray)

Not long after entering the venue I realized how many people had thought Brother Ed was Maynard when I overheard ALOT of people saying a variation of "Yeah! Maynard was out front harrassing people!" etc. etc. Bizarre... but since I'm not completely versed in Puscifer I didn't know just how plausible this was to The Cult Of Maynard.

Later, after USGR's inspirational set, the Brother Ed > Maynard misidentification continued when the guys sitting to my right were raving about how "crazy" Maynard had been onstage... I felt like saying something, but I didn't. Then at the bar another guy was CONVINCED that Maynard was the drummer in USGR (Trivia: Evidently Maynard plays drums... I had no idea..) and when I attempted to explain that USGR are really a band from Cleveland he cut me off and said something like "Man, I'm a HUGE Maynard fan... and I KNOW that was him... and despite what you're saying I WANT to believe that it was him..." I kind of looked at him and thought "Ooookaaay, koo koo for Coco Puffs..." It's not like we were talking about Motörhead so I let it go. "I WANT to believe that it was him..." The Cult Of Maynard.

However, when Puscifer's set began I thought the joke was on ME! After a brief film introduction featuring Maynard as a General, Brother Ant and Brother Ed came onstage to address the crowd... and for a couple of minutes I thought that maybe I had been kept in the dark about Ed's "true" identity, because in sunglasses and without a baseball cap he did look like Maynard... and even when Maynard made his entrance onstage it still wasn't clear because he was in costume wearing a funny comb-over wig while riding a Segway. It wasn't until the 3rd song of the set that I chilled out and realized Maynard was Maynard onstage when he finally revealed himself sans costume... and then a couple of songs later Brother Ant and Brother Ed came onstage again as part of the shows theatrics. Soon after that I got bored and bailed to join Photo Ray at the bar and the first thing I said to him was "METAL".

As we watched the last moments of the set from the bar, someone came up to me and said "Are you Brian?"... I didn't know who the guy was... but then I realized it was Brother Ed talking in his "normal" voice! It caught me completely off guard that he was out of character. Hilarious! He was soon joined by Ant and it was cool to chat with them about how USGR got hooked up with Maynard (he randomly saw them playing in a club in Arizona..) and how well he's been treating them since they're not used to "big Rock tours" like Puscifer's. Ed also told more tales about getting mistaken for Maynard and how trippy / funny that is.. When I asked Ed what they were going to do after the Puscifer tour he said "Go back to playing on the sidewalk in Cleveland.." AMEN! Uncle Scratch's Gospel Review are the best God Squad band since Stryper.

After show with Brother Ed... or is it Maynard?

If you had bought one of every Puscifer merch item you would have paid around $725 (!); they had ALOT of merch. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. It struck me this morning that parts of Puscifer's presentation (the parts I paid attention to..) addressed the "cult" theme that I experienced... Jesus' image on toast.. I'm sure there are some Maynard devotees who see his face in toast. Religion is anywhere you can find it I guess... I should have paid more attention to Puscifer... Oh well... cue Uncle Scratch's Gospel Review!