HERE COMES THE CIRCUS: Sometimes, a band’s backstory takes precedence over their sound. Man Man is one of those bands. Part musical act, part traveling circus, the Philadelphia-based six-piece first caught my attention in 2008, just prior to the release of their last full-length, Rabbit Habits. While the disc itself was an infectious blend of gruff, Danzig-influenced punk, surf-infused psych rock, and whacked-out gypsy jazz, it was the group’s onstage antics that tended to shine brightest. They all wore war paint. Players went by stage names like “Pow Pow” and “Jazz Camel.” They rocked everything from the kazoo to the fire extinguisher. And they took to the stage in matching white getups, looking like the crazy castoffs from a P. Diddy party.
But it was not until I saw Man Man live, en route to their much-hyped-about gig at 2008’s Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, that I started to “get it.” Antics and high jinks aside, these six could pull off one of the tightest, yet delightfully all-over-the-place shows I’d ever seen. Their musicianship alone was a sight to behold. (I’ve still yet to see anyone play a set of keys with such intensity.) And the energy they exuded onstage wasn’t just zany—it was downright infectious.
This Sunday, the Philly collective return to SOhO (1221 State St.), this time in anticipation of another festival date; next weekend’s FYF Fest at Los Angeles’ State Historic Park. While they’ve yet to release a follow-up to Habits, it stands to reason that these six have more than their fair share of new tunes up their sleeves. And with new works will no doubt come new tricks from the group members, who seem most content when they’re sitting (literally) atop a stage brimming with instrumentation.
In addition, the fellas will be sharing their S.B. stage time with Everloving Records darlings The Growlers. Known for their own brand of swirling psych-surf rock, these Costa Mesa trippers are known for stirring up a crowd, and it’s my guess that the pairing will have folks kicking off their shoes and playing air drums in no time. Man Man and The Growlers play SOhO this Sunday, September 5, at 9 p.m. Call 962-7776, or visit clubmercy.com for info.
BUNNY HOP: And if that’s not enough experimental strangeness to satiate your appetite, don’t fret, because the Biko Co-Op Garage (6612 Sueno Rd.) is playing host to its own night of rock ’n’ roll eclecticism this Thursday, September 2. Starting at 7:30 p.m., the Isla Vista showspace opens its doors to Illinois-based punkers Imperial Can, Goleta’s own twee folksters Watercolor Paintings, Washington all-girl group Hell Woman, and puppeteers The Last Rabbit on Earth. (Yes, that’s puppeteers.) It’s a mishmash of awesomeness you just have to see to believe. For info, visit sbdiy.org.
THINGS ARE LOOKING UP: Also this week, SOhO hosts a benefit concert/debut party for Santa Barbara’s newest three-piece, The Rise and Fall. The band marks a coming together of stellar area talent. (The Little Heroes’ Jim Lombardo and ThreadSpinner’s Sarah Beth Corum share vocal duties.) And based on the recordings I’ve heard, it will be a night far greater than the sum of its parts. TRAF’s sound falls somewhere between the pop leanings of Mates of State and the folksy sounds of bands like Bowerbirds and Blind Pilot, making for a mix of tunes that are as heartfelt and powerful as they are inviting. Better yet, the show will double as a benefit event, with proceeds going toward research for spinal muscular atrophy. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. and also includes sets from fellow Santa Barbarans Winchester Rebels and The Upbeat. For tickets and information, call 962-7776, or visit sohosb.com.