I was still a good two blocks away from The Satellite, where I would be attending the camp-pop explosion that is Leslie Hall and her band Leslie & The LYs, when I spotted my first pair of gold spandex booty shorts. It was the first clue that a.) this show was going to be a people-watching bonanza and b.) I had clearly under-dressed for the occasion.
I needn’t have worried about the second part, though. The whole message of Leslie Hall’s goofy, celebratory music is that we’re all fabulous, no matter what size our asses are or what we chose to clad them in when we left the house. Yes, there were shiny and sparkly Leslie fans in abundance inside The Satellite—but some of us were just shiny and sparkly on the inside.
The show began with a knowingly awkward, low-budget video about Leslie and her sidekicks time-traveling into the future on a quest to obtain the Golden Beats. (No, I’m not telling whether or not they succeeded—no spoilers! You’ll just have to go to the show and see for yourself.) Then Leslie emerged, resplendent in gold and macrame, and launched into “Blame the Booty,” the first of several songs about her “lower regions,” as she delicately put it.
Nothing else about Leslie Hall is the least bit delicate, which is what makes her so awesome. She’s a big, loud Midwestern gal, with a personality at least 10 times larger than her dress size. During and between songs, she worked the crowd with banter that would put any stand-up comedian to shame, over-sharing about everything from her flat ass (“If you bring a pillow to a three-hour movie, I feel you”) to her crafting addiction (“When you need to rent one of those storage units and you’re still in your twenties…”).
Her stage set was, as she put it, “Vegas-style production at Midwest prices.” It started out just looking like some stage flats draped in gold fabric. Then her backup singers rotated the whole thing sideways to reveal a bedazzled Leslie visage, which then split in two to reveal her whole band. The effect was pretty delightful considering the whole thing probably fits in one of those little U-Haul trailers.
Leslie & the LYs are touring in support of Songs in the Key of Gold, a dance remix collection of Leslie’s greatest hits. (Remember how fantastic it was when that used to be a thing? I still have the Billy Idol dance remix collection on cassette somewhere and I stand by that purchase 100%.) This was good news for us because it meant that Les was there to play the hits and play them for maximum danceosity. Although I suspect that’s pretty much what she does on all her tours.
The only real break in the action came when Leslie invited several fans up on stage for a little gem sweater fashion show. The girl who won—who did indeed have a pretty spectacular sweater—was so excited I thought she might start shrieking like a nine-year-old at a One Direction concert. But she managed to hold it together enough to dance along to “Craft Talk,” the best-known of Leslie Hall’s many musical paeans to the art of bedazzling.
There was a tribute to Leslie’s cat Shania, “#1 Cat in America,” which was also an excuse for her to have audience members pass up their cell phones to share their cat pictures. (I immediately regretted that I switched wallpapers awhile back and no longer had this to share.) That number also featured a set of giant cardboard cat legs that rose up behind the stage while someone pretending to be Shania squeaked into an offstage microphone: “Hi, Mom! I hid inside your luggage!”
In lieu of a conventional encore (“We don’t have any more songs,” Leslie said apologetically. “Besides, it’s Monday. Don’t you all have lives? Jobs?”), she and the LYs led the crowd in a little impromptu post-show dance party. “This is the dance started it all!” she declared over Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” busting out a move she called “scooping the driveway.”
At the very end of the show, her minions rotated the backdrop again to reveal a toll free phone number. “I do check my messages,” she assured the crowd, before heading backstage to soak her feet and have some pizza: “I need to float these feminine ankles in the old Epsom bath.”
The song that maybe best epitomizes the Leslie Hall mojo was her finale: “Shazam I’m Glamorous”: a call-and-response anthem in which Leslie entreats her fans to tell her she’s glamorous—and of course they do, fervently. And every time they do, her face scrunches up with delight and she squeals “Thank you!” with complete sincerity. The positive feedback loop between Leslie Hall and her fans is a beautiful thing to behold. I think we all left the show feeling a bit more glamorous—even those of us who were only sparkly on the inside.
I gotta be honest: I have no frame of reference for reviewing a Kyary Pamyu Pamyu concert. I had never been to a J-pop show before, unless you count Trippple Nippples, which I don’t. Where the Trippp Nippps are clearly trying to be a little edgier and more “arty,” KPP is gleefully, blissfully, unironically out to sweep her audience away under a raging torrent of cuteness. It was quite possibly the most ridiculous show I have ever been to, and definitely one of the happiest. If you walk out of a Kyary Pamyu Pamyu concert wearing a frowny face, you need to adjust your meds.
So is KPP fairly typical of a J-pop show? I have no idea. All I know is not since the ’90s heyday of candy raving have my eyeballs been bombarded with such a colorful display. Oh, and the music was pretty good, too. Even though it was all just a pre-recorded backing track, including most (all?) of the vocals. You don’t go to a KPP show because you want to hear an extended version of the piano solo on “Mottai Night Land.”
There was a set that looked like the bedroom of a giant toddler. There were Oompa-Loompa-like backup dancers. There was a dancing rabbit and a dancing bear. There was an inexplicably bizarre video interlude, to cover for one of Kyary’s many costume changes, that featured her playing poker with a bunch of scary-looking Americans and posing next to a motor scooter like a kawaii James Dean. There were not, sadly, any of the dancing fuzz-monsters from the “Invader Invader” video, but they did throw in that song’s dope-ass dubstep breakdown—and in case you’re wondering, yes, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is still totally adorable, even when dancing to dubstep. Her adorableness defies all logic and the basic laws of the space-time continuum. All the kitten videos on YouTube contain less cumulative adorableness than a single KPP dance move. I can’t explain it, but it is so.
The crowd was almost as much fun as the show, full of elaborately costumed J-pop fans of all ages, races and even styles—there were more than a few goth/steampunk dolls in attendance, sprinkled amidst the expected packs of girls in frilly pink princess dresses. I tried to snap a few pics but when you’re a middle-aged guy at a J-pop show, you have to be careful about who you point your camera at. Fortunately, others with more balls and better cameras were there, too.
My arms are still tired from doing the “Fashion Monster” dance, so I’m going to stop typing now and just leave you with a couple more photos. As you can see, we got there late and our seats weren’t the best. I did try to capture the energy of the crowd in that one shot, though. Yeah, people were really into it.
When I think of Chicago, I think of deep dish pizza, Da Bears, Ferris Bueller, and that one time I bumped into Trent Reznor at O’Hare (true story). I certainly don’t think of weird music, but I may need to recalibrate my mental image of Da Chi. The city that gave us Wesley Willis and Jan Terri seems to be a reliable breeding ground for eccentric musical artistes. And carrying on in that grand tradition is the mysterious duo called Univore.
Univore first surfaced in 2010 with an album called Casale Project, which set the occasionally poetic ramblings of Italian-born artist Marco Casale to a series of breezy jazz/prog/disco/space-rock instrumentals. The music on Casale Project is semi-weird at best—though it does feature the occasional out-of-left-field blast of Love Supreme saxophone—but Marco Casale is a wonder, over-enunciating in his thick Mediterranean accent about America’s hair (“is like wheat on fire!”) and the dude he’s gonna bust up for stealing his bicycle seat. And when Univore started casting Casale is a series of zero-budget videos—all, for no apparent reason, with Asian subtitles—well, shit just got crazy in the best possible way.
Now it’s important to note that Casale is merely a guest vocalist and that, really, Univore is the work of two gentlemen by the names of David Bachmann and Nicholas Flandro. They describe themselves as a “media production duo” who are available (according to their website) for “original music, video production, content creation, ideating, as well as art direction and copywriting.” If I ever find myself stuck in O’Hare again (and Trent Reznor is nowhere to be found), I know who I’m calling when I’m in need of some ideating.
In addition to Casale Project, Univore have released two other albums: Love Letters, a 2011 concept album made up of “letters of affection to various fictional women” and Beasts From a Silk Womb, a “confluence of apocalyptic imagery” masquerading as makeout music from the ’70s. Here, for example, is a shag-run and lava-lamp jam about how we’re destroying the planet. Our technological advances will be our ultimate undoing, am I right, ladies??
Love Letters and Beasts From a Silk Womb don’t feature the campy vocal stylings of Mr. Casale, but Bachmann and and Flandro clearly know a good thing when they’ve found one and have been careful to cast the photogenic DeNiro/Aeillo lookalike in all their videos. Last year, they finally did a proper reunion with him and created a one-off song and short film called “I Dream the Video,” which is almost too well-produced for its own good. It left us longing for the simpler pleasures of their masterpiece, “Champagne Taste,” which against all reason and logic is impossible to stop watching. As one YouTube commenter put it: “Oh, no! I shouldn’t be watching this video.”
P.S. Many thanks to new reader Jake Kirby for turning us on to the unique charms of Univore, along with several other weird artists. Sorry we didn’t pick Hasil Adkins, Jake. Maybe next time.
As much as I sometimes wish Americans were into better pop music, our bad taste does have its benefits. If nothing else, it often means that when cool superstars from overseas come to our Black-Eyed-Peas-afflicted land, they play much smaller venues than they do back home. Case in point: Harajuku J-pop icon Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, who can fill arenas in Japan but will hit comparatively intimate theaters when she tours here next month. God bless America and our isolationist monoculture!
We’ll be going to see Kyary when she plays the small-ish (2,300 capacity) Club Nokia here in L.A. on Feb. 16th. And I gotta be honest, I have no idea what to expect. It’ll be our first real J-pop show, unless you count Trippple Nippples, which I don’t. The crowd at that show was a hipster-palooza. The crowd at Kyary’s all-ages show is likely to be a lot younger and screamier.
KPP WORLD TOUR 2014
Feb 13 Seattle / Showbox at the Market
Feb 15 San Francisco / The Regency Ballroom
Feb 16 Los Angeles / Club Nokia LA Live
Mar 5 Chicago / House of Blues
Mar 7 Toronto / Sound Academy
Mar 8 New York / Best Buy Theater
We’ll leave you with Kyary’s latest eye-popping video, for the track “Mottai Night Land.” In this one, she dresses up like a giant fluffy cat, dances with skeletons and plays a spastic piano solo. It’s one of her more restrained efforts.
Remember that scene in Up in the Air where George Clooney and Anna Kendrick and that other lady whose name I forget all crash a corporate conference party? And in the middle of the party, Young MC comes out and does “Bust a Move” and the crowd goes wild and starts bumpin’ name tags and sweatin’ through their white dress shirts? Looked pretty fun, right? Especially because George Clooney was there.
Now imagine that same scene, except this time…well, OK, this time George Clooney isn’t there, but this time, Young MC flies out over the crowd doing a Britney Spears cover. I just blew your mind, didn’t I?
This is what Amplifly Aerial Band does: Blow minds at corporate events. They’re a “high end corporate event band” from Utah that straps their singers and guitar players into harnesses and flies them around the room, Cirque du Soleil style. They also sometimes dress them up Daft Punk-style in motorcycle helmets with blinky raver lights on them. They call their performers…wait for it…”Flyborgs.” I could never think this shit up, could you?
I assume the only reason Amplifly Aerial Band is not already the biggest corporate event band on the planet is because they’re from Utah. Do they have corporations there? I always thought it was all just Mormons and ski resorts, but then again I don’t travel much.
Anyway, Amplifly Aerial Band crushed the competition in our latest Weird Band Poll, which can only mean that global domination is not far behind. Congrats, guys! If we ever decide to incorporate, we are totally booking you for our IPO party.
Here’s what I believe is known in the biz as a “sizzle reel” showing the Amplifly kids in action. Oh, yeah, did I mention they also play some dubstep? I bet if Skrillex flew around during his shows, he wouldn’t suck nearly so hard.
Happy 2014, weirdos! Are you as hungover as we are? I hope not, because this week’s weird artiste can be tough to listen to with a throbbin’ noggin.
We were introduced to Jan Terri the same way most folks are: Someone sent us a link to a YouTube video called “Worst music video ever,” a badly ripped copy of Terri’s “Losing You” that’s gotten over 3 million hits. And while “Losing You” is not the worst music video ever by a long shot (as far as we’re concerned, Brokencyde still wears that crown), it’s not exactly a cinematic triumph. The camerawork could best be described as “easily distracted” and Terri has so little screen presence she’s upstaged at the 1:05 mark by a drainpipe. The tune itself is actually pretty catchy, but Terri sings it like someone at a karaoke bar trying to do a song she’s never heard before. At first glance, it’s a train wreck.
And yet…Jan Terri’s music sucks you in, and not just because it really is catchy. Like all great outsider music, there’s something pure and unaffected about it. Songs like “Losing You” and “Make It With You Babe” are such determined yet failed attempts to make slickly produced pop-rock that the failure itself becomes more compelling than actual slickly produced pop-rock.
Terri released two albums and a handful of videos on VHS tape in the early ’90s, but few people outside her hometown of Chicago knew about her until Marilyn Manson, of all people, became a fan. She opened for him in 1998 and appears in his God Is in the T.V. video collection. Soon after that, however, she stopped pursuing music to take care of her mother, who suffered from dementia and passed away in 2008. So when her videos started becoming viral hits on YouTube in the late ’00s, no one really knew what had become of her. She was even rumored to have died.
Instead, much to the delight of her growing fan base (and us here at TWBITW), Terri resurfaced in 2011 with new music and a holiday-themed video that showed she hadn’t lost her knack for kitschy YouTube fodder:
Since her comeback, Terri’s released another two albums’ worth of frozen-in-the-’80s pop anthems: The Wild One, a country-tinged effort with awesome cover art, and last year’s No Rules, which features some of her rockingest tunes to date. We’ll leave you with the video for the No Rules track “Skyrockets,” which was shot right here in L.A. (or, more specifically, “on location in Beverly Hills, Malibu & Hollywood”) and proves that, even after 20 years, Jan Terri is still, as I believe the kids like to say, unfuckwitable.
Do you think Santa Claus feels under-appreciated? I mean, sure, everyone dresses up like him for a month and erects effigies of him on their rooftops and sends him mail and sings songs about how great he is. But does he get any presents on Christmas? I mean, apart from milk and cookies, which are nice and all but far less satisfying than an Xbox? No, he does not. It’s fair to say that come Dec. 26th, Santa is probably the bitterest motherfucker on the planet. He probably locks himself in a dark room for a month with all those cookies and a box of porn and wonders why the hell he even bothers.
Fortunately, British art-rock weirdos a.P.A.t.T. are here to help Santa out. Not with actual presents or anything—I mean, let’s not go crazy. Like most art-rock weirdos, they’re probably too broke to buy Santa an Xbox. But they did write him an adorable little song called “Spare a Thought for Santa,” which is available now via Bandcamp for a mere £1. All proceeds go to help Mrs. Claus get Santa some post-Christmas therapy and maybe a trip to Barbados. I’m kidding, of course. They all go to line the pockets of a.P.A.t.T., who could probably also use some therapy and a Caribbean vacation. Either way, it’s a good cause.
Time to get those gold pants dry-cleaned and spit-shined, weirdos. After way too long of a silence (OK, only since 2011, but we’re impatient), gem-sweater dance-pop queen Leslie Hall is coming back with a brand-new album of remixes and a 2014 tour. Can an album of remixes be brand-new? It can when Leslie’s doing it. She’s a rule breaker like that.
No word yet on the title of Leslie’s remix album, but we can tell you it’s due out this December and features new takes on Leslie & the LY’s classics by “Mash-Up Mad Man” Titus Jones. She’s following up its release with what is sure to be the most bedazzled national tour of early 2014. Lady Gaga and Katy Perry may as well just wave the white flag now.
Full tour dates after this delightful clip for Jones’ booty-shaking remix of “No Pants Policy.” We are blogging pantsless in its honor. Actually, we blog pantsless most of the time, but you probably could’ve guessed that.
Leslie and the LY’s 2014 tour dates:
1/12 San Francisco, CA – Rickshaw Stop
2/5 Kansas City, MO – The Riot Room
2/6 St Louis, MO – Plush Saint Louis
2/7 Chicago, IL – The Empty Bottle
2/8 Grand Rapids, MI – The Pyramid Scheme
2/9 Madison, WI – High Noon Saloon
2/10 Pontiac, MI – The Crofoot (The Pike Room)
2/11 Columbus, OH – TBA
2/13 Cambridge, MA – Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub
2/14 Providence, RI – AS220
2/15 Brooklyn, NY – Knitting Factory Brooklyn
2/16 Philadelphia, PA – Johnny Brenda’s
2/17 Washington, DC – DC9 Nightclub
2/19 Chapel Hill, NC – Local 506
2/20 Charlotte, NC – TBA
2/21 Atlanta, GA – The EARL
2/22 Birmingham, AL – Bottletree Cafe
2/23 Nashville, TN – 12th & Porter
2/24 New Orleans, LA – TBA
2/25 Houston, TX – Fitzgerald’s Houston
2/26 Dallas, TX – Club Dada
2/27 Austin, TX – Red 7
3/1 Tucson, AZ- club congress
3/2 Las Vegas, NV – TBA
3/3 San Diego, CA – Soda Bar
3/4 Los Angeles, CA – The Satellite
3/7 Seattle, WA – The Vera Project
3/8 Portland, OR – Branx Blow Pony
3/10 Salt Lake City, UT – Urban Lounge
3/12 Denver, CO – Hi-Dive Denver
3/13 Omaha, NE – The Waiting Room Lounge
3/14 Minneapolis, MN – Triple Rock Social Club
3/15 Des Moines, IA – Wooly’s
3/21 Iowa City, IA – Blue Moose Tap House
We’ve had a rough couple of weeks here at Weird Band HQ, so we were in dire need of some cheering up. And what better way to cheer up than with a little candy-colored, hyper-caffeinated J-pop? In J-Pop-Land, no one ever gets stuck in traffic, the serotonin flows like tap water and fluorescent is the new black. You know your favorite adorable kitten video on YouTube? Cram all five minutes of it down into a three-second animated GIF and you have the perfect visual accompaniment to most J-pop.
All J-pop looks and sounds pretty strange to us Westerners, but the genre’s most freshly minted superstar, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, takes things to a whole new level. She’s sometimes described as Japan’s answer to Lady Gaga, but it would probably be more fair to describe her as the majokko lovechild of Katy Perry and Psy. Like those two, her music tends to be polarizing (you either think it’s adorably catchy pop or annoyingly repetitive drivel), her dance moves tend to be varying degrees of ridiculous, and most importantly, her costumes and music videos tend to be garish eye candy explosions in which the cute, the comical and the grotesque intermingle in all sorts of head-scratchingly unexpected ways. You may prefer to watch Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s videos with the sound turned down, but I bet you’ll watch them all the way through.
Kyary, who’s only 20, got her start as a fashion blogger and model associated with Harajuku, the youthful Japanese clothing style known for its bright colors and obsession with all things “kawaii” (cute). Kyary’s unique spin on Harajuku has always been to inject it with a touch of the bizarre: a rubber shark hat, a demonic painted-on mouth, hair clips with eyeballs on them. “I love grotesque things,” she told one interviewer. “There are so many ‘just cute’ things in the world, so I add grotesque, scary and even shocking materials like eyeballs and brains to balance out the cuteness.”
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is a bona fide superstar in Japan; her first video, “PONPONPON,” has racked up over 50 million views on YouTube, which I’m pretty sure makes her the most popular artist we’ve ever blogged about (sorry, Flaming Lips; you had a good run). But popularity and weirdness are not mutually exclusive; over the course of “PONPONPON,” Kyary dances with a giant floating eyeball, pterodactyls and what appears to be a fat dude in blackface and a pink princess dress. And “PONPONPON” is probably her least eccentric video. In her most recent clip, “Ninjya Re Bang Bang,” she rides a giant carp, dances with cartoon robot mice and vanquishes an evil floating head by turning her arm into a laser cannon, all while wearing what we’re gonna describe as ninja sleepwear. Here, check it out, but be warned: This song will lodge itself in your head for days.
We’ll leave you with “Invader Invader,” which both visually and sonically gets our vote Kyary’s for greatest and weirdest achievement to date. The finger-mustache dance moves, the breakdancing fur monsters, the TV-headed DJ, the completely gratuitous and totally awesome dubstep breakdown…why can’t American pop music be this much fun?
Kyary’s latest album, Nanda Collection—which features “Ninjya Re Bang Bang” and “Invader Invader”—just came out in Japan and the States (not sure about the rest of the world). You can buy the digital U.S. version here.
This week’s weird band was suggested by an excellently named reader called Adam Whybray. He describes a.P.A.t.T. as sounding “a bit like a glitchy Mr. Bungle cult that formed down the pub.” And while that’s probably as good a description as any of these cheeky Liverpudlians (although it doesn’t contain the word “Liverpudlian,” which is one of those words you should use every chance you get), it really only scratches the surface of what this avant-pop art-school project has achieved in its 15-odd years of existence.
a.P.A.t.T. (what does it stand for? how do you pronounce it? who knows? who cares?) formed in Liverpool in 1997 or 1998. Their early goal, according to their Wikipedia page (which the band links to from their official site, so let’s assume it’s semi-accurate), was to “make, find, imagine, and create ‘secret music,’” by which they seemed to mean music that abandoned traditional song structures and instrumentation. You can hear some of the band’s early stuff on Welcome to a.P.A.t.T. Island – A collection of earlies, which veers sharply between abstract, ambient noise and bursts of spastic, genre-hopping art-pop that reveals some of those Mr. Bungle influences that Adam picked up, as well as an even more direct early influence (and another favorite of ours around here), Cardiacs.
By 2005 or so, the band’s music had become even harder to categorize. On the Fre(e.P), they started doing Girl Talk-like mashups, mixing recognizable pop and classic rock samples with trip-hop beats and trashy club rap, but doing it in a style meant more to be unsettling than party-starting. Check the amazing “Megamix Part 1″ for a taste of what happens when you cram the Jackson 5, Coolio, Portishead and “What a Day for a Daydream” into the same track.
Meanwhile, they were also developing a live soundtrack for the silent-film-era vampire classic, Nosferatu, complete with strings. Because hey, why not?
In 2008, they reinvented themselves yet again, transforming into a Zappa-like prog/jazz/metal/psych-rock orchestra on the epic, 27-track Black & White Mass. Most recently, they released Paul the Record, a split album with a band called Peepholes, then decided to embrace the “playlist on shuffle” mentality of our modern age with Ogadimma, a 14-track set on which no two songs are done in the same style. They’ve also shot videos for all 14 songs; taken collectively, they’re pretty amazing. Here they are, for example, in full-on Prince-meets-Of-Montreal mode:
Now try to remember, as you watch this next video, that this is the same band:
They also cite Ween as one of their influences, which honestly didn’t make sense to me until I heard the casual, tongue-in-cheek virtuosity of the Ogadimma stuff: “Oh, you want to hear us do some ’80s synth-pop? Sure, here you go. No big whoop.” (Among their other listed influences: The Residents, Duran Duran, Captain Beefheart, John Zorn, Slayer, Claude Debussy, ABBA, and The Beatles. Much like a.P.A.t.T.’s actual music, this list simultaneously makes no sense and all the sense in the world.)
You’ll notice up until now that I haven’t mentioned any of a.P.A.t.T.’s members by name. That’s because, quite frankly, I have no idea who these people are. a.P.A.t.T don’t perform wearing masks or anything, but they do (mostly) stick to an all-white costume palette that seems to help them maintain a semi-anonymous quality. That plus, let’s be honest here, a.P.A.t.T. is not the world’s most Google-friendly band name. According to their Wikipedia page, their core members go by the names General MIDI, Field Marshall Stack, Dorothy Wave, Master Fader and The Researcher, but that’s all I know.
We’ll wrap this post up with a clip of a.P.A.t.T’s live show (non-orchestra version), which looks like jolly good fun. That lady keyboard player (Dorothy Wave, we presume) has sure got some sick dance moves.