BY DEV BHAT
After two performances at the Great American Music Hall, it is safe to say that San Francisco loves the band Man Man. For the uninitiated, Man Man is a finely crafted brand of chaos, control and community out of Philly. Those familiar with its live act might compare the experience to being at a wild gypsy carnival in which the audience is an active participant. Man Man’s live performances have the reputation of sparking an animalistic reaction from the audience.
The opening act at a Man Man show is just as important as the main performance. Man Man has never failed selecting great openers (Yeasayer and Grandchildren are among them). This tour featured Brooklynite Xenia Rubinos, who plays the electric piano and has a monumental vocal range. She was joined onstage by drummer Marco Buccelli who could only be described as a mathematician in his attention to detailed beats. Xenia was supporting her recent release, Magic Trix, and lovingly told the audience this had been her first time in San Francisco.
After Xenia’s performance, Man Man walked onstage to a remix of Cher’s “Do You Believe.” This eventually morphed into the gentle horn intro of “Oni Swan”. “Born Tight” followed immediately afterward, making a lighter start to a typically chaotic performance. However, it took no time at all for Man Man to launch into “Hot Bat,” and then into a seldom-heard classic, “Zebra.”
A mosh-pit tentatively broke out no less than a few seconds into this song. People jumped up and down, fell over and launched themselves across the floor, but the audience didn’t miss a single lyric. Man Man pushed through their setlist with incredibly energy. Frontman Honus Honus guided the insanity and often interacted with his screaming fans. At one point, he placed his mic stand in the middle of the second row of people and sang to it as they held it for him. Even drummer and co-frontman PowPow was able to get the calculated reactions he wanted from the crowd. In a combination of skill and wit, he would stand on his own kit and signal the audience at different sing-along points of the songs. Accompanied by a backing of horns and synths, they belted out mostly new tracks. In addition to “Zebra,” they did indulge the audience with old and rare favorites including “Push The Eagles Stomach” and “Young Einstein on The Beach.” “Mister Jung Stuffed” continues to be a crowd pleaser. Though many of the old members have been replaced by new musicians, there is no doubt that Man Man understands its sound and knows how to take advantage of it in a live setting.
Man Man took only a minute-long break after their set before being demanded back to the stage after a series of foot stomps, claps and an audience rendition of “We Will Rock You.” A quick three-song encore with two new tracks and a send-off with “Rabbit Habits” topped off the show.
Among the many other talented music acts out there, Man Man is one of the hardest working and most spirited. The musicians serve as an example for which live music standards should be held.
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