Man Man gets into the groove

Man Man (the band band) knows how to turn a concert into a party. Last Tuesday night, their skeleton costumes, endless musical-instrument-chairs, and incessant physical engagement with the crowd transformed The Grey Eagle into a steaming dance fest. Touring in support of their new album, On Oni Pond, the Philadelphia quartet put on a two-hour show, performing music from their entire 10-year career. They opened with the stuttering, slippery mid-tempo groove, “End Boss,” screaming the chorus “If you won’t invent yourself, you can’t circumvent your hell,” before burning into one of the intense circus/ska highlights from Rabbit Habbits, “Top Drawer.”

Honus Honus (lead singer, electric pianist and general ring-leader of the madness) propelled the band through a set of mostly up-tempo numbers, pausing only briefly between tunes. Tightly constructed and immaculately well-rehearsed, Man Man poured through feel changes and instrument switches like it was no big thing. New members Shono Murphy and Adam Schatz both played electric guitars, basses, synths and percussion. Additionally, as Schatz played bass lines on a tenor sax, Murphy ripped high altitude solos on trumpet. Placing his drum kit directly in the front of the stage, face-to-face with Honus Honus’s Rhodes electric piano, core-Man Man member Pow Pow played a much more active role in getting the audience dancing than most drummers. As Honus Honus jumped and skittered across the stage, Pow Pow made sure the crowd kept its clapping in time.

Even as they explored their entire catalog, Man Man emphasized new material, breaking from their own performance standards by allowing Honus Honus to sing most of the new songs standing up, running around the stage, and interacting with the crowd. This was not the sit-down piano-led rock band of yesteryear, but a whole new approach to Man Man’s sound. “Pink Wonton,” “Loot My Body,” and “Paul’s Grotesque” excited a crowd well-versed in the new material, while the first single from the record, the pop-friendly ballad “Head On,” got everyone singing “Hold on to your heart, never let nobody take it over.”

Though the non-stop show seemed to be over at about the 75-minute mark, the band returned for a six-song encore. The encore started with Pow Pow taking up the mic and singing through some type of vocoder/synth effect. Shono Murphy, who’d been the band’s primary guitarist, laid down a tight jungle beat on the kit, while Pow Pow jumped around. Before anybody could get too comfortable with Man Man’s show, it was over. A pitched-down dub of Madonna singing “Into the Groove,” so that the beat was all slinky and mid-tempo and the diva’s voice sounded nearly manly, came on over the house stereo as the band marched off stage. Oddly, the concert began and ended with ’80s hits over the house system — the first was Taco’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”

Photo from the band’s Instagram


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.