Man Man, The Extraordinaires, Horns of Happiness
John Waldron Arts Center, 122 S. Walnut St., Bloomington
Wednesday, March 19, 8:30 p.m., $12, all-ages
Believe it or not, there’s a method to Man Man’s madness.
“We’re not music school kids,” says Ryan Kattner, aka Honus Honus, the vocalist and keyboardist in the Philly-based collective. “We’re all self-taught, kind of outsiders. We’ll think it’d be great if we could use a marimba in this song instead of a guitar. It’s that train of thought — trying not to adhere to any one format.”
Man Man’s madcap, junkyard aesthetic would make Frank Zappa proud. But as zany as it often gets, it’s not an oddity completely born from dysfunction.
“I wouldn’t say on all of the songs, but some of them there’s a structure that’s brought in,” Kattner says. “Then we’ll kind of implode it. It’s very organic.”
Man Man’s live shows are famous for their feverish pace and instrument swapping, with on-stage madness carefully choreographed, despite chaotic appearances.
“They’re very carefully structured as far as how they flow, the same way we put together our records,” Kattner says. “We don’t want it to be just all cocaine jams. We don’t want to lose people’s attention too much.”
Executing all those stage directions can be challenging.
“You have to really be dialed in, because on any given song members are jumping from instrument to instrument,” Kattner says. “If you drop your pick or break a key it’s like, ‘Fuck. I’m screwed.’ It can all easily fall apart if we’re not being careful. It’s exciting, but it can also be exhausting — physically and mentally.”
It’s proven worthwhile. Man Man have reaped a serious underground buzz on the club scene, and exposed their dernier cri to a wider audience as a recent opening act for Modest Mouse. Like most artists operating as an outlier, audience participation is important.
“But we’ll still give it to you, even if there’s only five people there,” Kattner says.