Man Man works you up, G. Love calms you down

3 07 2009

By Justin Jacobs (@justinhjacobs)

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Man Man, Rothbury 2009

The back end of Rothbury’s festival grounds — where you’ll find the duo of the mid-sized Sherwood Court stage and the massive Odeum — drew shuffling, sleepy crowds for Friday’s early afternoon shows.

Luckily, Philadelphia spazz-rock outfit Man Man provided more jolt than a Redbull or coffee ever could. The band sounds like the music that would come from Santa’s workshop if all the elves were mentally unstable. That is, vocalist Honus Honus shrieks wildly over his band’s orchestral racket that includes two drum sets, saxophone, xylophone and — get this — slide flute.

With matching white outfits of cut-off shorts and face paint (as well as few songs Honus sang wearing a sequined dress from backstage), Man Man is almost equal parts performance and music — the band could entertain a crowd without playing anything at all.

But “performance,” in the sense of Man Man, it should be noted, consists mainly of members jumping, dancing and often twirling from instrument to instrument. The whole thing looks like half-drunken interpretive dancing, and it couldn’t be more fun.

Sufficiently woken up, much of the Rothbury crowd wandered next door to the Odeum stage as G. Love and Special Sauce began a 90-minute set balancing laid-back summertime jams and some harder-pushing rock ‘n’ roll.

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Reverberating deep into the crowd, the music was a perfect soundtrack in the Odeum’s back half, where thousands laid peacefully in the sun. G. Love, seated center stage, led the band in natural, pure rock music without any electronic flourishes or extended jams — leaner, shorter tunes cut down the middle with harmonica.

When G. Love U-turned a breezy tune into a harder “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road” cover, even folks lying down in the back, half-asleep in the sun cracked a smile and nodded along.

So what does the rest of the day hold?

More of a varied string of bands than any other time of the weekend — from Broken Social Scene in the wooded Ranch Area stage to Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley and Nas to Flogging Molly and finally to the night’s headliners, The String Cheese Incident.

Genre-switching I can handle, easy. But tonight’s late-night line-up is too much to take — fly through space with Sound Tribe Sector 9, get hyped up and dance with Chromeo and Girl Talk or feel some bass quiver my soul with The Glitch Mob?

Either way, it’ll be a long, wild night.

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