This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001



Man Man will trip the life fantastic at the Music Hall of Williamsburg on May 31 and June 1

Music Hall of Williamsburg
66 North Sixth St.
Tuesday, May 31, and Wednesday, June 1, $16, 8:00

Man Man’s idea of a fantastic life is probably a lot different from yours. “And the scene, it turns so grisly / and the children, they are crying / You hand them black umbrellas / tell ’em that the world is dying,” they sing on the title track to their fourth album, Life Fantastic (Anti-, May 2011), continuing, “It’s how you hide your cards / It’s how you dress your scars / and let them breathe (breathe) / Life, fantastic... / Life, so tragic... / Life, fantastic...” Man Man has been displaying its unique worldview and unusual experimental sound since it formed in 2003, releasing such discs as 2008’s Rabbit Habits (with such fine tunage as “Mister Jung Stuffed” and “Mysteries of the Universe Unraveled”), 2006’s Six Demon Bag (“Black Mission Goggles,” “Van Helsing Boombox”), and 2004’s The Man in a Blue Turban with a Face (“Against the Peruvian Monster,” “10lb Moustache”), but they’ve gone a whole lot darker on their latest. Led by keyboardist and lyricist Honus Honus (Ryan Kattner), who seems to have emerged from his time in Los Angeles not exactly the happiest of campers, the Philly band also includes Pow Wow (Christopher Powell), Critter Cat (Russell Higbee), and Chang Wang (Billy Dufala). Life Fantastic is like a wild Brecht/Weill Gypsy carnival, with sweet musical flourishes from an endless array of horns, strings, xylophones, and various other forms of percussive and computerized madness, evoking a bit of David Bowie here, a shot of Frank Zappa there, and even Tom Waits and Captain Beefheart in places. “I’m racing through the dark / a headless Saint Bernard / to cauterize the scars / that line your dirty heart,” Honus proclaims on the album opener, “Knuckle Down.” On “Piranhas Club” he asks, “Is it all about the ebb and the flow / of losing your mind sometimes and letting go? / You feel like you can’t breathe / You’re outta control / The world is a shitshow / you barely can handle.” Man Man is well known for not putting on shit shows, instead driving crowds crazy with their exuberance, their face paint, and their constantly changing tempos and rhythms, giving audiences all they can handle and more. “Can you feel it? / It’s like a warm atomic cloud that’s raining down, washing over us,” Honus Honus sings on “Dark Arts.” You’ll be able to feel it when Man Man plays the Music Hall of Williamsburg on May 31 and June 1 with Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers; the first night is sold out, but tickets are still available for Wednesday night.

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