The floor at SOhO had a pulse Thursday night, and came alive when indie darlings Man Man led the packed club in sing-alongs, clap-alongs, and even key-alongs. Key-alongs? Yep, the audience was encouraged to shake their keys overhead while the band jammed on, playing a range of instruments that included pots, pans, and a shiny silver-something that appeared to be a muffler.
Although the instrument range may seem odd, kitchen appliances and auto-garage parts aside, Man Man’s approach shouldn’t be confused with a do-it-yourself sound. The five-piece was just as versatile as the every-walk-of-life crowd that came out to see them, with the band members moving fluidly from one instrument to another. At any moment the drummer was skillfully playing the guitar, the trumpeter would pick up the sax, someone else would trade in a party-favor horn for a flute, and just when the boys started to resemble what might popularly be thought of as a “normal” band, singer Honus Honus would run back onstage wearing a sequined nylon cape with a matching headband and pound feverishly on the piano.
Santa Barbara doesn’t often witness an act like this. Only a brief catastrophe onstage (in the form of power outage and tumbling drums) toward the end of their set could momentarily interrupt the Men Men from carrying on with the dizzying horn ballads, eerie guitar riffs, and otherwise perfect symmetry of their May 2008 release, Rabbit Habits. They filled the space with impromptu screams that would have raised the hair on the back of David Lynch’s neck and broke into a tropical blues jam session (think Jon Brion), accidentally exposing their musical versatility and talent for improvisation.
It was almost shocking when, suddenly, a song picked up at the exact moment it had been halted and moved along as though the interruption had never happened. Decked in white cut-offs, polo shirts, and war paint, the band performed an entire set and came back with a three-song encore, ending the show with “Van Helsing Boombox.”
Opening for them was Yeasayer. “They’re like an avant-garde, world, electronic, but mostly avant-garde band,” their merch-guy explained. Yeasayer was equally esteemed by the chic-looking, nearly sold-out crowd.