Words & Images by Forrest Reda

The Mutaytor :: 03.10.06 :: Henry Fonda Theatre :: Los Angeles, CA

The Mutaytor :: 03.10

Mutants are alive and well in Hollywood. That's the best way to describe the scene when The Mutaytor performed at what has suddenly become the hippest venue in town, The Music Box at the Henry Fonda Theatre.

The Mutaytor is a mesh of electronic music and live beats provided by a bevy of drummers and percussionists, with some horns thrown in to jazz up the mix. The music is all over the map, everything from rhythmic trance to a sample of the crescendo from The Beatles' Abbey Road. There are practically no lyrics apart from the super-sexy song "Drop The Laundry," which simply repeats the title while the dancers do just what the title implies.

To understand The Mutaytor, you need to know the roots of the band.

While Phish kids were trekking around the country chasing the great American dream, Burning Man was crystallizing the same alternative values in the Mojave Desert. Several bands were born out of this scene, but none personify the Burning Man culture like The Mutaytor. Simultaneously visually and aurally stunning, The Mutaytor invites the audience to actually be a part of the show.

The Mutaytor :: 03.10

Like a live-action video game, performers fly around the stage, spewing fire and, to borrow a phrase often used by the band-leader Matty Nash, "tearing shit up."

At the Fonda, there were enough audience members in Burning Man regalia to blur the line between performers and audience. During the show there is no leader, in the traditional sense, just a bunch of highly talented people who look like they are having the time of their lives.

On stage, there were jumbo-sized Lego people, giant dragons, and stuffed animals. Dancers changed wardrobes multiple times and executed a variety of moves, from fire-dancing to sword-play to wire and harness-enhanced martial arts.

This is all fronted by exotic dancers, both male and female, who writhe, pirouette, and swallow and twirl fire in a hurricane of movement and physical passion. There is no net protecting the performers from each other, nor the audience from the performance. The line between the stage and audience is repeatedly crossed, indeed flown over, by the performers. It is a full-contact performance that needs to be executed perfectly, and The Mutaytor pulls it off at no small risk to its members.

The Mutaytor :: 03.10

This is X-Men-type theatrics. The Mutaytor executes live stunts that extend the boundary of what is thought possible in a traveling show.

Their mission is to create a change in every person they encounter. Failure is not part of their vernacular. The safety of the performers is assured because they know that they won't fail. If the show was at a single venue in Vegas, the risks taken would not seem as extreme, but this is a traveling circus that seems to shout, "Free all the animals. We are the most impressive species on the planet, so let's all perform for each other."

The Mutaytor :: 03.10

When I saw The Mutaytor on Xingolati, I thought the 30-person entourage was simply part of a Crossing the Line ritual in which the 2,000 people on board the cruise ship unwittingly participated during that fantastic night on the dark ocean. Since then, my cells have slowly changed, my brain has been rewired, and my body feels better then ever before. I'm prone to late nights, and when I sleep, I get more rest out of fewer hours. I don't think I'll ever be the same, and I don't want to go back.

When a "normal" band performs, the audience realizes that there are other people besides the musicians on stage making the magic happen, but they are unseen and the audience tends to forget this aspect. The Mutaytor is a troupe of musicians, artists, performers, dancers, and fire-dancers that resembles the Indo-Tibetan Circus and Giant Panda Gypsy Blues Band (from the classic Tom Robbins book, Another Roadside Attraction).

The Mutaytor might be labeled a novelty act by some, freaks by conservative types, but as a wise woman once told me, a freak is just a tweak of freedom.

The Mutaytor represents freedom at its peak.

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[Published on: 3/30/06]

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Alex.Anastas starstarstarstarstar Thu 3/30/2006 03:38PM
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"...a wise woman once told me, a freak is just a tweak of freedom."

I really liked this part of the article and I can't wait to check these freaks out!

Adam T.s. Fri 3/31/2006 06:25AM
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Adam T.s.

Hell yeah! Wakarusa here I come.

Arturo star Fri 3/31/2006 07:19AM
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"Are you ready to fuck shit up?!!"
This is the actual quote I heard ol' Matt Nash say. How do I remember this, when it has been almost a year since I have seen Mutaytor? Because he says it over and over and over. On the heels of this profundity, "Drop the Laundry" sounds stately by comparison.
Why do I care? Because I used to think Mutaytor was really something. The first time I saw them perform in the desert they whipped the party to a frenzy. Several shows and countless "Are you ready to fuck shit ups" later, and they look like they take themselves too seriously. Too serious to be THIS formulaic. Too serious for so many costume changes. Too serious to pull the same androgynous Crying Game "surprise" over and over. Too serious to be making Zoolander faces during hulahoop exercises, and too serious to have a drummer who drives an SUV Beemer (with a vanity plate) consider himself tribal. Does this sound like bitching? Ummm...more like "whining" but no one whines in a vacuum. P.S. Don't drop references to ROADSIDE ATTRACTION without backing them up. Show, don't tell.

Wavemage starstarstarstar Fri 3/31/2006 05:39PM
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The Mutaytor sent me into therapy. After seeing 12 perfomances I can no longer think straight or live my life the way I used to. Adjusting to the mutaytions is difficult, and I no longer know who I am. I lost my job, my friends, my way, and I'm not sure I will ever recover...perhaps I would have been ok if I stopped at 2 or 3 shows, but now I fear the damage is permanent.

Kat02 starstarstarstarstar Sat 4/1/2006 04:21PM
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Arturo, Arturo, Arturo, I HAVE to respond. I have been following The Mutaytor for years now, and I think their new show is absolutly INCREDIBLE!!! So much better than back in the day when they would just get up on stage and improv in their old chaotic style. That had it's beauty, but you can only take so much of the same old thing over and over again. I love how much the show has evolved. My question is, why do you have such a problem with with it's evolution? As The Mutaytor's career gets more and more professional, they can't really get away with what they did back in the day. Another thing I have to ask is, how do you know this drummer with the SUV beemer calls himself tribal?? Could that be your definition that you are trying to prove him wrong of? Secondly, I didn't know that it was a prerequisite that you had to drive a crappy car to call yourself 'tribal'. Thirdly, even if this drummer does call himself 'tribal', does he not have the right to because he makes a good money as a lawyer defending people's rights protected by the 1st ammendment? I don't get why he shouldn't be able to call himself tribal if he wanted to. We all have our alternate lives.
As The Mutaytor's career evolves, the show does need to be formulaic so that they are taken seriously. Do you think that Blue Man Group or Cirque du Soleil would have gone as far as they did if they just went up on stage each night and didn't have a formula and/or choreographed routines? If Mutaytor wants to have the professional career that they are headed towards, the show can't be what it used to be.
And, just for the record, I think anyone who gets up on stage and makes Zoolander faces DEFINITLY does NOT take themselves too seriously.

thesaxophonist starstarstarstarstar Sun 4/2/2006 09:51AM
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WAVEMAGE: "The Mutaytor sent me into therapy. After seeing 12 perfomances I can no longer think straight or live my life the way I used to. Adjusting to the mutaytions is difficult, and I no longer know who I am. I lost my job, my friends, my way, and I'm not sure I will ever recover...perhaps I would have been ok if I stopped at 2 or 3 shows, but now I fear the damage is permanent"