Friday, June 27, 2008

Unlimited Enthusiasm Expo in Cambridge, MA 6/25/08

If this blog has a theme, I like to think it would be “serious” artists. You know, ones with “talent.” So this entry may come a little out of left-field, a review of a high-energy show where none of the artists take themselves all that seriously and are as into having a good time as they are making music. Welcome to Camp Jump and Yell.

That’s right, this a camp-themed tour. All attendants had to wear name-tags. There was punch available, a photo booth, and little kids running around everywhere (though plenty of adults too, making this the most truly “all ages” show I’d ever seen). The tour’s other official name was the Unlimited Enthusiasm Expo and, as you will see, this pro
ved an apt titling.

I walked in to the riotous noise of Uncle Monsterface covering “Like a Prayer” and it was quite a scene. A lead singer dressed as Popeye, a guy wandering around with a monster helmet (this turned out to be the band’s namesake), a video screen showing videos for each song (like this one), a sock puppet stage, audience members dancing around with inflatable lobsters, and a dinosaur crowd-surfing around the room. Songs about the Dungeons and Dragons inventor (“The Gary Gygax Song”) and the aforementioned crustaceons (“Lobster Building”) had the crowd jumping around to the band like a hyperactive DEVO, while others necessitated a trombone here, and audience member playing Super Mario Bros. on the big screen there. Sure, they weren’t “good” by any standard music-critic definition of the word, but their A.D.D. pop proved too infectious for anyone not to be grinning.

After a transition interlude of Werewolf Remus teaching the crowd how to cook babies and an ad for Wizard Rock the Vote (yes, it exists, here’s the video), three-piece Math the Band came onstage in a choreographed dance to “Step By Step.” Once again, there wasn’t a whole lot of music actually being made – the vast majority of it was played off a laptop – so the group’s purpose onstage seemed mostly to dance. That they did plenty of as they led the audience through rave-bop sing-alongs of “Home on the Range” and some beautiful bastardization of the national anthem. Each song racing by at a frenetic clip, the synth beeps and drum bashes backed vocals about jumping jacks and werewolves as they leapt around stage, in and out of the audience, at one point even giving the crowd drum sticks and holding out the cymbal for them to play.

An unannounced next feature was a real puppet show, but the creator of the Youtube sensation Potter Puppet Pals. He did a mini-musical with all the favorites from the show, with spot-on voices and imitations. Here is a video of the same routine, worth watching over the audience noise.

Needless to say, that made a perfect segue into the main attraction: Harry and the Potters. Even if you have never heard of them, you can probably guess exactly what they’re like. Two guys (and a drummer) dressed up and acting like Harry Potter, singing songs with titles like “Save Ginny Weasley” and “Voldemort Can’t Stop the Rock.” Once again, if not necessarily musically talented, they’re unlimitedly enthusiastic. Though many of their songs didn’t break the 45-second mark, I was amazed to discover that they were more than just a live novelty act – the crowd knew every word to every song, shouting along about wizard chess and basilisks. Like the Sex Pistols via Hanson, the songs were absurdly danceable for a crowd crazy with enthusiasm, joining into a giant swaying hug circle for “The Weapon We Have Is Love” and dividing into a two-part choir for a number about Cho Chang.

Just as amusing was the between-song banter, never breaking character or finding a problem with the fact that there were two guys pretending to be Harry. Reminiscing about their many adventures, they even threw in a little pitch about how the way we all can fight evil is by registering to vote. The guitarist played a very realistic-looking broomstick guitar, while the keyboardist occasionally busted out a sax, showing more musical promise on that than seen in the rest of the show together. If these guys are a novelty, it’s in the most fun way possible and while you might not sit at home listening to their albums, I’d definitely catch their show if it comes your way.

For the show – I mean, camp – finale, all three bands crammed the tiny Middle East stage for the Unlimited Enthusiasm Theme Song. You can download it here and, though it’s not all that good, imagine what a blast it would be screamed out by a dozen people onstage and a hundred off. In that way, it’s very fitting.

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