Man Man has been garnering fans across the continent with a carnivalesque live show and music that could soundtrack Tod Browning's 'Freaks'. Even on a Sunday a good-sized crowd was willing to make the trip to Mavericks to catch the offbeat quintet.

First on stage was Male Nurse, a pseudonym for local post-punk rocker Davey Quesnelle, who performed a brief singer-songwriter set of originals and covers by Tom Waits, Kepler and the theme songs from ‘Cheers’ and ‘Family Matters’. It was a slightly hesitant performance (his first alone), and a strange precursor to the following acts.

The Million Dollar Marxists are one of Ottawa’s most energetic stage acts – their sets frequently end with lead singer Luke Nuclear swinging from a part of the stage, and local soundmen long ago learned not to give him the best microphone unless they want it to end up with a few new dents.

On this occasion he satisfied himself with swinging from one of the poles by the side of the Mavericks’ stage (having earlier surveyed the curtain rods that hold up the stage’s backdrop, he apparently decided they were too flimsy), snapping a microphone stand in half and pulling a monitor on top of himself (which bassist Johnny O then sat on).

Despite all these shenanigans, the band kept its punk rock attack – reminiscent of bands like the New Bomb Turks and early Rocket From The Crypt - tightly focused.

Then it was Man Man’s turn. Right off the bat you could sense this was a different sort of band: First they set up their gear with the piano and drum set facing each other at the front of the stage behind which a xylophone playing bassist, synthesizer playing saxophonist and marimba playing guitarist were arrayed. Second, a brief sound check substituted blood-curdling screams for the usual “check-check, one-two-three.” Third, when the group took the stage they were all wearing tennis whites - quite sensible, but a tad unusual.

The band has garnered specious comparisons to Tom Waits and Captain Beefheart. Part of this is due to singer Honus Honus’ gravelly voice and the raucous use of a variety of instruments, but the steady stomp of the band’s beat and howled harmonies are more like something Reverend Glasseye would try. Their polyrhythmic approach and varied instruments also reminded me of shows by Cerberus Shoal and Sunburned Hand of The Man. (There was also a bit of mock faith-healing – Man Man are nothing if not showmen.)

The crowd was well in to the rollicking, tooting and clanging performance – it was certainly something different.

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Commenting On: Mavericks, Ottawa, 4/6/2006 - Man Man

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