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Man...Or Astro-Man?
December 1, 2001
At The Engine Room
Houston, TX

by Samuel Barker
December 21, 2001

When Sci-fi, surf, experimental...(you get the picture right), rockers Man...or Astro-man? came to town, there was a treat to be had by all who attended this adventure in audio exploration. There are few sounds that go unused in a Man...Or Astro-man set, which makes this band such a pleasure to see.

As you entered the club, you could see the familiar elements of a MOAM show. There were computers, projection screens, various gadgets created by the band, and of course, some of the same type of instruments you see at every show(drums, guitars, basses). These were just a front to make everyone feel comfortable, soon everything went a little off kilter. Coco played various odd instruments, like a homemade contraption that involved two computer keyboards being connected together to make a portable sampler and a synthesizer, and the theramin.

As the band came onto the stage, one could not help but notice that their mic stands were about 8 feet high, which was nowhere near the band's height. This threw those not too familiar with the band off; they were apparently unaware that MOAM songs are instrumentals with a few human vocals thrown in. As soon as the samples began and the odd NASA training films began, the band went into a full speed attack of surf riffs and wild futuristic sounds. I was surprised that the band still held so much substance after going down to a 3-piece band, but the texture was all there.

I would love to tell you all the songs the band played with a set list and everything, but as anyone who attends a MOAM show knows, you will be doing yourself a disservice to attempt that. The band has an idea of what they are playing, but a lot of the set is improvisation and experimentation. The fact that MOAM can pull this off and not lose an audience is a testament to their ability to pull of wild and complex musical explorations right in front of you.

As the night moved on, the mics came down and the band began it's taunting of the crowd. Birdstuff even came down from this drum set to antagonize the crowd. This led to many a beer bottle narrowly missing him behind the cymbals. It was great to see a band actually interacting with the crowd and having fun with what they were doing.

The highlight of the evening was "Plain Text File" from their newest album 'A Spectrum of Infinite Scale'. This song stands out because it's exactly as the name describes, it's the sound of a text file being printed by a dot matrix printer, but it's no ordinary text file, it's a specially written one that allows the printer to make a song with the sound it makes. The band all gathered around and placed their microphones close to the printer and proceeded to head bang and salute the printer with metal fists throughout the show, it was a classic moment.

It was not too long after this that the band decided to play its final song. This was a medley of various tracks, including ZZ Top's "La Grange" and Pink Floyd's "Interstellar Overdrive" amongst others. It was a rocker to end a great night. As the band just about finished their set, Coco pulled out this huge contraption and proceeded to turn it on with a handswitch, which lead to lighting shooting to the ceiling of the club. It was an amazing finish. MOAM is definitely a band you need to see if you are music enthusiast.

Samuel Barker is Senior Editor. Contact him at suma@rockzone.com.

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