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Arriving at the regal Great American Musical Hall in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district on the calm night October 1, I could not have anticipated from the relatively subdued atmosphere of the gathering crowd the joyful ruckus that I was about to experience.

Early arrivals were greeted in style by opening act Xenia Rubinos, who came out and looped herself singing “hello” before launching into the first song, accompanied by drummer Marco Buccelli.

During her performance, Rubinos channelled Mariah Carey in her vocal slides and played synth bass lines with all the funk of a Betty Davis track (read about Rubinos’s childhood obsession with Mariah in our interview with her). For one of the songs, Buccelli hit a 30-second drum solo on his custom distorted snare that silenced the crowd. The closing song, “Hair Receding,” had a compelling jolting quality, and showcased the pair’s telepathic ability to navigate the complex rhythms they created together. Rubinos is an electrifying performer who conveyed an energy and charisma throughout the half-hour set that created the perfect mood for the main act.

After a wait, the lights dimmed and Man Man came on stage to what sounded like their own remix of Cher’s 1998 hit “Believe.” They played mix of songs from their most recent record, On Oni Pond, and some older crowd favorites. Genre-wise their set was a mishmash of psychedelic rock, blues rock, and hints of ska.

Rubinos joined the band on backing vocals for “Head On (Hold On to Your Heart),” one of the highlights from On Oni Pond. Throughout the night, frontman Honus Honus changed costumes quite a bit: an alien mask for one song, a psychedelic cape for another, and an extremely classy white faux fur coat for yet another.

After a thrilling set, Honus Honus came out for the encore with just a ukulele and begged the audience, “Don’t clap, it’ll fuck me up,” before starting a solo version of “Deep Cover,” another track from On Oni Pond.  The audience clapped along anyway, teasing Honus Honus and causing him to stumble a little. He responded by laughing and saying, “You fucked me up.” It was a perfect example of the rapport that the band has built up with their hugely devoted fans.

After the rest of the band joined him on stage, the encore crescendoed into a frantic thrashing of instruments, with some band members even bashing the sides of the stage with drumsticks. When the performance reached its conclusion, it was met by a thunderous roar from the audience.

Man Man’s live show is a testament to the band’s playful liveliness and enthusiasm for their material.

The two acts were a perfect match. Both took already vibrant material from their records and added a whole new dimension of ebullience to their live versions. Their manic, kinetic performances are definitely something that you need to experience for yourself.

article by Francesca Gonta

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