Innovative originality – maybe even music

As the Eagles were recently playing their second show this year at the BOk Center, a slightly different concert was taking place at Cain’s Ballroom for those of us who like our music a little more offbeat.

The two acts that played that night were Buckethead and That 1 Guy—a couple of avant-garde experimenters who are just as gifted musically as they are reticent about their identities (actually, their real names are Brian Carroll and Mike Silverman, respectively, for anyone dying to know), and who both had the crowd laughing and scratching their heads with their transcendently bizarre performances.

That 1 Guy, a.k.a. Mike Silverman of Toronto, opened the evening with a great set of experimental and comic songs, which he played solo, joined only by his homemade instrument, the “Magic Pipe.”  The apparatus is something of a cross between a harp, a string bass, and a Theremin, but mainly it’s just a couple of lengths of pipe with a snare drum, a couple of strings, and some buttons and pedals attached.  When manipulated by That 1 Guy’s deft touch, however, it becomes an orchestra unto itself—call it a “1-Guy-band” if you will.  By smacking, plucking, and stroking the pipes and strings in various places, That 1 Guy is able to conjure all manner of sounds from the instrument. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t impressed.
This decidedly out-there music is paired with equally out-there lyrics that bring to mind everyone from Frank Zappa to Weird Al Yankovic to They Might Be Giants—albeit with an Orwellian sense of paranoia underlying it all.  Dressed in his trademark Amish-style felt hat, Silverman sang songs like “Buttmachine,” “Weasel Potpie,” and “The Moon is Disgusting (It’s Made of Cheese)” (which he described as “a pro-cheese song, and a pro-moon song”), all of which fell somewhere in between children’s nonsense rhymes, horror movie dialogue, and Freudian free-association.  He played his Magic Pipe with everything from a credit card to a drumstick to a violin bow, and only stopped a few times—once to pound on an electrified cowboy boot (the “Magic Boot”), once to play an electric musical saw (the “Magic Saw,” of course), and once to do some impressive card tricks. (Yes, card tricks.)
 One audience member (who was standing a several yards away from me) put it best: “That’s so cool! Goddammit, that’s so cool!”
It was an impressive set, and one that was going to be hard to follow. Fortunately, headliner Buckethead had a slew of supporters in the audience—there were a handful of people wearing chicken masks, and at least one bartender in the room had a KFC bucket on his head. (Buckethead’s personal mythology claims that he was raised by chickens and has made it his mission to warn people of the evils of KFC—until recently, the bucket on his head was a KFC bucket.) Buckethead took the stage, wearing his trademark character mask and bucket, and played a rocking set of his guitar virtuoso songs that had the crowd cheering.
It was a set that focused primarily on his heavy metal influences (which wasn’t surprising, given that that’s the direction his albums have been going in recent years), and while it made for a solid performance, it felt a bit monotonous, particularly after That 1 Guy’s decidedly eclectic set. Fortunately, the monotony was broken up a bit when various members of his crew entered the stage wearing Halloween masks to dance to his virtuosic riffing, and later when he handed out toys to the audience members and wowed them with his formidable nunchaku skills. (Yes, nunchaku skills.)
Toward the end of the evening, Buckethead was joined onstage by That 1 Guy, and the two dueted on several songs—including a suite of musical numbers from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, which they performed over a hip-hop beat. The pairing was one that felt natural: That 1 Guy added color to Buckethead’s guitar, and Buckethead’s powerful chords added depth and resonance to That 1 Guy’s bleeps and bloops.
Toward the end of the set, the crowd was thinning out, and I couldn’t really blame them: it was a long show (right around four hours, including both sets), and this sort of music isn’t for everyone—still, it provided insight into what music can be when performers are willing to innovate and not just maintain the status quo. It’s not that I blame anyone for going to see the Eagles instead, but if it’s a question of originality, they don’t know what they’re missing.

About the author:

A graduate of the University of Nebraska, Luke Harrington currently resides in Tulsa and works in the aerospace industry–but, at any given moment, would probably rather be reviewing movies and music.  In his spare time, he’s off playing blues piano, pretending to be Assistant Editor for, or reviewing the many musical events in Northeastern Oklahoma for Tulsa Today.

All photos by Kevin Pyle.