Friday November 12th, 1999 at The Bottleneck in Lawrence, KS
Man or Astroman?, Bob Log III & Knodel

Man or Astroman? Man or Astroman? Bob Log III Knodel [more]

What a dilimma here! I had hoped to catch Man or Astroman earlier in the evening when they played a free show at Love Garden (the area record store) and then later that evening see The Anniversary, The Markers & The Pallindrones at Whiskeytown. Would have been a wonderful night, however Man or Astroman? played at six and I was still at work then so it wasn't a very good match and I simple opted for the Astroman show.

Ryan and I showed up early and bought our reasonable $8 tickets just in case the show sold out (which I am told it did later that evening) and then headed over to Whiskeytown (the house where the folks in The Anniversary live) to see if anything was happening over there. Nothing. We sat on the front porch and it was a long time before I even saw another person I knew making me wonder if I was even at the right place. After about forty minutes of Led Zeppelin and unfriendly folks we just split and went back to the club.

Being the unhip sort I am, I had no idea who either of the openers were, but grabbed my camera and walked up to the front of the stage anyway. It was at that point I realized that this was an out of towner show. Locals never come up to the stage for the openers, but yet I wasn't alone. I was surrounded by visitors! And if that weren't spooky enough, out walked three guys in white uniforms from France in some future century and with bass, drums, cheap keyboards, expensive vocal effects and equal parts Devo and Gary Numan, they began to infect the crowd with totally fun new-wave pop songs. Although their stage persona's weren't always on 100% (and no one can take it as far as Man or Astroman?) they were loads of fun and the audience went bonkers and afterwards there was a line a dozen people deep just to sign the band's mailing list. New wave revival is back and in full effect.

The mindless fun and ramblings of Knodel were quickly forgotten as Bob Log III climbed on stage and sat down in front of a kick drum and picked up a cheap guitar. Behind him there was a laughable stack of practice amps and a cord that ran from one of them to phone jammed in the mouth piece of a pilot's helmet. Just to look at him you'd be sure his craft crashed in the back alley, but the only other planet this Tucson native (half of the late Doo Rag) comes from is the Mississippi Delta.

Bob Log's music is a totally stripped down jerky blues with stop and start slide playing and only minimalist drumming to keep time. His vocals are distorted, screamed and further distorted but even if you could understand them I'm not sure you want to know what he sings with titles like I Want Your Shit on My Leg and Big Ass Hard On. Although I thought his long set was trying, he did keep me entertained - much like a car wreck. After breaking two strings in the opener, and another two during the show, he addressed the audience in a disheartened tone explaining "This is a four string show, that's pretty expensive." At another point in his show he tried to convince someone from the audience to come up on stage and do the "tit claps" while he played Clap Your Tits from his latest album Trike (Fat Possum 1999). Although he didn't get any takers, the audience jumped, nodded and throbbed along throughout his set.

Once Bob Log had left the stage four men in HAZMAT suits, hoods and goggles came to clean up the stage and prep for the headliners. I saw Macintoshes boot, projectors begin warming up, the Tesla coil moved into position and the giant supercomputer Eviac get switched on. When their work was done they disappeared and four astromen in red jumpsuits and helmets returned and greeted the audience of almost 500 earthlings.

The band have consistently outdone themselves with every tour and this time it was proved with the towering Eviac computer full of pulsing lights and computer screens (and hiding the tuners, amps, effects, and cabinets). It was immense! Toss in the flaming helmet, the synchronized dance moves, the samples triggered from computer keyboards that hung around the band's necks, the incredible double necked guitar played by two astromen, and a convincing story line of extra-planetary origin and you've got a show!

I was so very impressed that the band never dropped their persona, even when they had to tell the audience that they couldn't play their requests. It turns out you have to make a request in writing (in triplicate?) 6 months in advance because everything is pre-programmed (in FORTRAN no less) into Eviac. Entertaining, or maybe I'm just a geek.

As the band finished their show, they set a final resounding sample to repeat and they ran for cover. The band ducked behind equipment and urgently began pulling plugs, powering off Eviac, and shutting down their Macs while another astroman rolled out the 8 foot high Tesla coil. The cheering audience was immediately fixated on the sparking, crackling, electric extravaganza in the dark. Talk about a finish!

Oh yeah, the band played space-themed surf rock really well.