Let's talk about one-man bands.
I don't mean solo performers with a guitar and an imperative to annoy but dudes who by themselves play all the parts of a multimember band.
You know the (stereo)type: an aging, wild-haired, fashion casualty who writes songs about his dog, his car, his ex-wife, baseball. Attached with various straps and adhesives are a bass drum on his back, cymbals between his knees, a harmonica around his neck, and an acoustic guitar in his hands. He rattles and strums awkwardly, like a dilapidating clock, the strain of it all wilting his unconvincing smile. You've seen him, at Disney World or Sunfest or wherever. Your kids loved him while you thought, "Meh." Out of pity and to help with his chiropractic bill, you gave him a dollar and withdrew.
Now let's talk about That 1 Guy.
That 1 Guy is none of the above. That 1 Guy is actually Mike Silverman of Oakland, California, who hasn't played Disney World but has played Six Flags Astroworld in Houston. Rather than retrofit an orchestra's worth of conventional instruments to accommodate his body, Silverman went a much smarter route. He invented his own instrument.
The Magic Pipe came to Silverman -- a master of upright and electric bass who's also proficient in cello, guitar, and drums -- in a dream. It's a six-foot-tall, wicked-looking steel pole with a single string running top to bottom and electric pickups on both ends, like a cyberpunk washtub bass. "I'd been trying to put an instrument together that could take my music to a different place," he says. "I'd been thinking about it for three years, but I had no idea what I was doing."
As he slaps and taps various parts of the Pipe, he also alters its structure to achieve different sounds. "It changes shape," he explains, "which allows me to play it differently depending on how it's pivoted." The day he put the finishing touches on the streamlined monstrosity, still not sure what it was capable of, Silverman played his first gig with it. "I plugged it in and just went," he says. "That set the tone for this whole thing: a big experiment."
So what does Silverman's wigged-out science project sound like? "It's a combination of dense sonic layers and heavy rhythms," he says. "It's very rhythmic, with my feet and hands. I love rhythms from all over the world -- that's a big part of my vocabulary." So as he thumps a kick drum with his foot, loops his own beatboxing, and strangles and smacks the Magic Pipe, the result is something like Rahzel and Les Claypool sitting in with Frank Zappa. But there you have those three guys. And we're talking about That 1 Guy.
That 1 Guy plays at 9 p.m. Wednesday, April 20, at the Bamboo Room, 25 S. "J" St., Lake Worth. Tickets cost $5. Call 561-585-2583.
Who says a funk band can't play rock? Tear the roof off the sucka and get off your ass and jam. America eats its young -- you and your folks and me and my folks -- for the funky dollar bill. We're just a biological speculation, sitting here vibrating, but we don't know what we're vibrating about. It's nothing but the dog in me. Y'all see my point? Free your mind and your ass will follow.
I've been watching you, red hot mama, qualify and satisfy. We're standing on the verge of getting it on. Super stupid, this broken heart of mine. No compute Miss Lucifer's love. Let's make it last. Hey! Come play in a nappy dugout.
It's a joyful process of adolescent funk, and it's better by the pound. Would you like to dance with me? We're doing the Cosmic Slop. Everybody is gonna make it this time, even the foot soldiers, star-spangled and funky. Looking for some more? Let's take it to the stage! The clones of Doctor Funkenstein are not just knee deep. If you can't stand the strain, then I want you to hit it and quit it. It's good to your earhole, baby -- one nation under a groove. And no head, no backstage pass. Can you get to that?
George Clinton and P-Funk play at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 20, at the Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $35. Call 954-564-1074.
Pop music's winds often blow fickle, and sometimes just plain blow. This year's "it" boy/girl is tomorrow's cultural detritus celebrity on VH1. Yet a pair of mutable musicians continues to evolve while refusing to succumb to mediocrity. Todd Rundgren and Joe Jackson, who perform together this week in Pompano Beach, have been around for decades. That's long enough to compile impressive, unlikely CVs and continually baffle admirers with the radically winding roads they've taken through rock's rocky landscape. Stylistically, they've swerved into your neck of the woods, even if you don't know it.
To see where you stand on your aging '70s pop hero lore, bone up on the study guide and try the New Times Pop Quiz!© below. Choose between Todd Rundgren and Joe Jackson. Good luck, kids.
Circle the correct answer:
1. Produced Grand Funk Railroad and Patti Smith
2. Cut out the middleman via the Internet in the early '90s
3. Composed classical works
4. Wrote a song Anthrax liked so much that the band covered it
5. Anticipated Swing Revival
6. Produced a band that was voted both best and worst new band in Creem magazine's year-end poll
7. Composed film scores
8. Appeared on Hollywood Squares
9. After having sizable hits, refused to release anything resembling a proper "follow-up"
10. Produced a U.K. new-wave band's American breakthrough album
11. Compared to Elvis Costello
12. Dated same woman as Elvis Costello
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Answer key: Todd -- 1, 2, 6 (the New York Dolls), 7, 8, 9, 10 (XTC¹s ³Skylarking²), 12 (Bebe Buell, mom of Liv Tyler); Joe -- 2, 3, 4 (³Got the Time²), 5, 7, 9, 11
Rundgren scored a Top 20 hit in 1971 with the plaintive "We Gotta Get You a Woman." He produced records by Meat Loaf, Grand Funk Railroad, XTC, Patti Smith, New York Dolls, Psychedelic Furs, and Bad Religion. And he may be music's number-one technogeek.
Jackson sang the 1981 semi-cool-guy anthem "Is She Really Going Out with Him?" He's done swing and jump-blues -- predating the retro-swing revival by a decade -- and even composed an album of classical music. -- Mark Keresman
Todd Rundgren and Joe Jackson perform with Ethel at 8 p.m. Friday, April 15, at the Pompano Beach Amphitheatre, 1806 NE Sixth St., Pompano Beach. Tickets cost $28 or $38. Call 954-523-3309.