By: Greg Caruso
Puscifer :: 04.05.09 :: Club Nokia :: Los Angeles, CA
After gestating within the arcane mind of Tool and A Perfect Circle frontman Maynard James Keenan for more than ten years, the cabaret project Puscifer landed at Club Nokia for two shows. Combining performance art, music, multimedia and comedy, the act is something more far reaching than any live "rock" show in decades.
Club Nokia, which is by far the most well funded venue in L.A., was a remarkable space for this show. With superior sound coming at you from all angles, pulsating lights around all its bars and corridors and comfortable seating with not a bad view in the house, it truly pushes forward the concert going experience with a ton of momentum and fervor. The only downsides to the venue are ones that seem to always plague regular concertgoers, namely high drink prices and overzealous security.
The stage had a drum kit on each end, a section between for bass and guitar, and a middle platform toward the rear, which had two small screens on either side. In the front was a tent and lawn chairs that surrounded it. A large screen was hoisted behind the stage, and the show began with a Patton-like sequence with Maynard dressed as a major with the American flag behind him. "Major Douche," as he is called, proceeded to explain what we were about to see, and that there would be absolutely NO photography of any kind throughout the evening. To further get the crowd in the mood, "Major Douche" had us perform some audience participation with him - we screamed the word "VAGINA" at the top of our lungs.
After this, the Puscifer character appeared and a tripped out video sequence created by Meats Meier began. The sequence, which was used as a transition to the evening's video portions, uses a remix of "Queen B" behind it as we get sucked into Puscifer's "vagina." The first video featured Maynard broadcasting from inside the tent onstage. Bald, sporting dark shades and wearing a sharply tailored, all black suit with red tie, he was on the phone with some type of "manager" explaining his concept of the show (which included having Hitler dressed up in a tutu, but more on that later...), presumably trying to sell it. Once the phone call was over, roadies raised the tent and the crowd erupted at his presence. There was a table underneath with a laptop, cups and a bottle of his Caduceus wine, as well as a fake barbecue with phony flames. Maynard welcomed the crowd and took to the stage, as did the majority of the rotating band of musicians.
Opening up with "Rev 22:20," Maynard and singer-keyboardist Juliette Commagere were on the platform behind the two screens. The screens each had high angle webcams attached to the back, which televised their faces to the crowd. The effect was well realized and added to Maynard's ever changing masking of his true self. During each song, hilarious fake banner ads ran on the screens such as "Camp Crystal Meth," which featured a picture of a camp and two little Jason heads with spun-out eyes, "Hollywood Head Shots," with an actor smiling as a gun is being held to he head, and "He Is Risen Bakery," which had pieces of toast with the likeness of Jesus on them.
What's interesting about the project is that he doesn't use the same musicians every night, with the exception of Juliette Commagere, who provides the perfect counter balance to Maynard's style. Tonight's guitarist was Johnny Polanski, bassist Matt Mcjunkins and drummer Jeff Friedl from Ashes Divide, and on occasion Gil Sharone from Stolen Babies on the second drum kit. The band's overall sound is unlike anything Maynard has been involved with before. Every song had a somewhat different feel to it. Whether it was balls to the wall rock, down-tempo trip-hop or industrial, they all had one thing in common: They came from Maynard James Keenan's brain, and we were all welcomed in for a night.
The second video of the evening featured Maynard talking about the show, but this time he was speaking with Mr. Show's Jay Johnston, who was wearing a pink tutu and Hitler mustache. It was really just a quick tête-à-tête in regards to how he should at least just come check the show out and see what he thinks. As we got sucked back into Puscifer's "vagina" again, the band played through "Vagina Mine" and "Indigo Children." "Vagina Mine" is a more industrial track with punchy bass lines, a driving back-beat and electronic fueled guitar sounds, and "Indigo Children" has Maynard's hypnotic vocals prominently in play with a lot of down-beats coming from the band. At this point, more friends of the band came to sit around the "fire." These friends included Jay Johnston, of course dressed as Hitler in a tutu, members of opening band Sweethead, and eventually, Tool drummer Danny Carey strutted on up to roast some marshmallows with his girlfriend.
During "Indigo Children," a roadie dragged out a lumpy sleeping bag to the middle of the stage in between all the guests. A Perfect Circle and Ashes Divide mastermind Billy Howerdel emerged from inside wearing a flesh colored body suit. To say the crowd went nuts is an understatement. The band then launched into a raging version of "The Undertaker," which Howerdel commenced to annihilate. During "Trekka," a darkly ominous number, Howerdel laid down next to Johnston and got cozy. Before the vocals began, Maynard poured the shredder a glass of wine as thanks and headed back to his platform to handle vocal duties.
Puscifer first made its existence known via the hilarious HBO television series Mr. Show way back in 1995. Throughout the show's short run, Maynard made multiple brief appearances in various roles. The third video segment of the evening featured much of the show's cast talking about what Puscifer "is." The video was filled with quick cuts and soundbites, all intercut with denouncements of religion. Throughout, there were many news channel type graphics featuring different instances of "Bob," the "leader" of The Church of the SubGenius, a comedic quasi-religion, which Maynard has been known to be a part of.
When you think of Elton John's song "Rocket Man" one can't help but think about the whimsical nature and melodic voyage it takes you on. Puscifer stayed quite faithful to the original, but added subtle additions like little snippets of NASA recordings that made you really feel like you were high up above (for further pondering, check out last week's Saturday Eye Candy dedicated to the song). With the spooky sounds of "Polar Bear" and the mocking religious chanting of "Sour Grapes" following their only cover of the night, they paved the way for the evening's next guests. Drummer Josh Freese (A Perfect Circle, Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age) pounded away on the original version of "Queen B" in its entirety. Freese received a lot of attention for his hilarious and original manner of gaining press for his recent solo album, Since 1972. Among various package deals, one stand-out was for $20,000, which included a game of mini-golf with himself and Maynard.
Rounding out the evening with final guest, model/actress/singer Mila Jovovich, the band rolled out "The Mission." With Jovovich all dolled up, quite literally, and writhing around the stage in her oh-so-sexy manner, she had every man in the joint in the palm of her hands. With a sensuous voice that soothes as much as it teases, she's a perfect fit for this ragtag bunch of carny-like musicians. After all was said and done, one thing about the evening was made quite certain - Maynard certainly keeps things interesting.
These vids are not from this show, and they're a little bit shaky, but they give a much needed visual:
JamBase | Enfolded
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