The Magic Pipe set the mood Monday night at Volcanic Theatre Pub before That 1 Guy even played a note.
The 7-foot tall, homemade collection of pipes, strings and electronic triggers loomed large on a raised metal platform smack dab in the center of the stage. Various laptops and other electronic ephemera surrounded the footswitch-festooned platform; eagle-eyed early birds could catch a glimpse of the electrified Magic Saw hanging in its holster off one of the various metal tubes.
Anticipation built as audience members crept up to the stage to sneak a look at the setup before start time. It was even a bit intimidating for those unfamiliar with That 1 Guy — aka Mike Silverman, a classically trained bassist turned one-man band with the help of his homemade instruments.
To be sure, That 1 Guy’s set was intimidating, the musicianship on display downright frightening. For more than two hours, Silverman stomped about the platform, coaxing unearthly sounds out of the massive, jointed pipe contraption and providing his own stomping (literally) backbeat, at times resembling a hyperactive spider monkey as he reached for the right footswitches. Silverman ran the technical gamut on his pipes often in the space of a single song, plucking, scraping, smashing and bowing the strings into submission.
But this was a welcoming (and hilarious) performance, too, with songs designed primarily for grooving and moving, not chin-stroking musical analysis. “Packs a Wallop” set the mood early with its growling riffs and insistent groove, and the dancers in the audience — as usual — were more than happy to oblige. Things didn’t get much groovier than the industrial sludge of “Bomb Dignity” later in the set, featuring Silverman’s scatting take on Tuvan throat singing.
Silverman also focused heavily on last year’s “Poseidon’s Deep Water Adventure Friends,” the first of a four-album series based on the alchemical cycles of water, air, fire and earth. The opening instrumental set the murky “underwater” tone, with cascading bowed lines building over a steady drone. Set centerpiece “Whale Race” moved seamlessly through multiple parts, bookended by quotes from the “Reveille” bugle call, as Silverman used his pipe to trigger an invisible orchestra of bowed cellos and double basses.
There were moments of sheer beauty, too, especially when Silverman pulled out the Magic Saw — an electrified singing saw — for his haunting cover of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” And then there was “The Moon is Disgusting (It’s Made of Cheese),” a non sequitur-filled, quasi-metal rager that built the main set to a frenzied conclusion — before dropping down to a few bars of comical lounge-jazz.
Even at two-plus hours, the set never dragged and never felt as long as it was. Every song demanded rapt attention, with Silverman pulling out some new toy or gadget on nearly every song, or displaying a different technique on his homemade instrument.
Did I mention Silverman is hilarious? Throughout the set he would dramatically move the microphone closer and then away, the awkward creaking of the stand usually punctuated by a mouth click. “I know I do that a lot, but I mean it,” he quipped early in the show. Then there was the Magic Duck, a ratty sock puppet that mimed along to the pipe’s electronic quacking sounds. He joked with the crowd as he built some of his more complicated pieces; the encore performance, including “Weasel Potpie” and a cover of Cameo’s “Word Up,” devolved into an audience-prompted jam with improvised lyrics (“This finger is fortified!”).
That’s not even mentioning the card tricks. Or the Magic Boot, which is exactly what it sounds like.
In an interview with GO! Magazine before the show, Silverman lamented that what he does is “obvious to people when they see it, but not when I explain it.” There’s truth to that: No description, no recorded album, no YouTube video will explain where he took the audience this night.
— Reporter: 541-617-7814, email@example.com