MAN MAN @ EL REY THEATRE

May 24th, 2011 | Live reviews

I excitedly walked up to The El Rey Theatre and Mike of FYF greeted me by handing me a blue kazoo with Man Man printed on it in gold. “It has to match you!” he said, since I was wearing a blue and grey striped leotard. My eyes lit up as I foresaw the endless joys of kazoo-ing and dancing. As if I couldn’t have been any happier, he said, “Go get your face painted!” and of course I ran in and immediately spotted the face painters and told them to lay it on me. I let them paint whatever they wanted (except I had to add an X on my forehead with my red lipstick), then I stood in the middle of the colorful crowd fully prepared to have a complete Man Man experience. I had seen them at Street Scene 2008 and I loved their matching white costumes, face paint, confetti and random props they had on the stage. I also saw them at FYF Fest last year, and I enjoyed how they were decked out with the theatricals there as well. Yet this time, the audience got to be a part of it. I actually saw Ke$ha live two nights before Man Man at Warner Bros Studios at her Conan Summer Concert Series performance (long story) and I was placed at the very front since I am of small stature. Ke$ha’s costumed dancers shot glitter and confetti directly at me, and I immediately thought, “Man Man!” Although Man Man glams out their audience in a more subtle way, theatricals are theatricals.

Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers from Brooklyn, New York didn’t have anything dramatic about their appearance, but the music made up for that. They were all wearing completely normal attire, but their performance caught our eyes and ears nonetheless because the stage was bouncing with their music. The way Shilpa Ray sang reminded me of Billy Idol and the way he yells out passionately with his raspy dramatic “rebel yell.” Shilpa has a powerful voice, and she controls her harmonium easily while singing so greatly. Her Happy Hookers rocked the bass, drums, and guitar equally powerfully as they bounced around and threw strong energy into the moshpit. The crowd indulged in the irresistibly catchy “Heaven In Stereo” and we all shared an experience of witnessing pure talent. The depth of the lyrics are infinite unlike a lot of music we hear these days. It is refreshing to hear definite passion. The Hookers left the stage as Shilpa Ray stood alone with her harmonium to perform “The Hookers of Myspace,” in which her beautiful harmonium was delightfully paired with her raw and soulful singing. If not already fans of Shilpa, the crowd certainly wanted to be her happy hookers after that performance.

Man Man (and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia) make me want to live in Philly. The sounds these four musical gods create are everywhere, sometimes unexpected, and inevitably dance inducing. Man Man is a group of multi-talented, humorous, unadulteratedly energetic men. They opened up with “Hurly Burly” from their third album, Rabbit Habits, manifesting their percussion skills especially. Of their four albums and two EP’s spanning over the past seven years, Man Man dabbled throughout with a seemingly endless amount of different instruments. Having six years of saxophone and percussion skills under my belt, I fully appreciate Man Man’s abilities to play wind, brass, and percussive instruments. It isn’t easy, and the guys work their asses off, so are therefore well-deserving of the sheer admiring dancing of the crowd. One guy literally crowd surfed on and off for three songs (give or take) at a time throughout Man Man’s set. It was hilarious to see him floating everywhere without falling through for such a long time, and stopping and starting whenever and wherever he pleased. This reflects how many Man Man fans were packed into El Rey, and how fanatic they were. “Top Drawer,” also off of Rabbit Habits, is my favorite Man Man tune, and I crazily jumped, danced, screamed, and moshed throughout the whole song along with the rest of the crowd that loved it as much as I do. The sound of the keys made all heads bob and are made more powerful by the heavy and loud percussions and brasses, and the euphonious raspy voice of Honus. Not only can Honus sing, but the entire band backs him up melodiously while exquisitely playing their many many instruments. They played “Piranhas Club,” which was finally released on their brand new album Life Fantastic on May 10th. I heard this song at FYF fest and loved its purely happy sound and of course the amazing tight and speedy percussion gets me every time when it comes to Man Man. Although more refined, the band’s new album is just as beautiful as the previous three, and when they played “Haute Tropique,” Honus gave me the confetti I’d been waiting for as he and the audience shifted like salsa dancers. When I got home, I was pleasantly surprised to see that my war paint survived the plethora of sweaty shirts and hands to the face. It stuck to me all night, and Man Man’s Life Fantastic camped out in my head for days—much nicer than Ke$ha’s glitter all over my life.

Alyssa Holland