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06/18/16 Northside Festival
Maynard James Keenan of Tool and A Perfect Circle, is also the mainstay behind Puscifer, a band he considers to be his "creative subconscious" - and how creative it was when the band’s “Money $hot Heard Round the World Tour” stopped recently at Northrop Auditorium in Minneapolis.
The crowd was entertained by the thirty-minute highly physical performance, especially as the spidered wrestler managed to single-handedly defeat the other four, complete with signature moves and enhanced drama.
Lights then went dark, the wrestling ring moved back and musician platforms moved quickly into place as Puscifer took to the stage for their headlining set, after almost no downtime in-between. As the crew fine-tuned everything, a video warning from side stage monitors by one Major Douche (one of Keenan’s many personas) cautioned against any cameras or cellphone use, which was also reinforced by the tighter-than-normal security.
Another Keenan character, Billy D, then appeared on video, slurring and rambling while drinking shots and generally self-abusing. As his visage faded from the screens, the band seamlessly launched into the opening ‘Simultaneous’, cloaked in the dimmest of blue light with a lone footlight near drummer Jeff Friedl as the only beacon.
Keenan was mostly hidden in darkness (as he does performing with his other bands as well), wearing a dark suit, mask and sunglasses, splitting his time singing with co-vocalist Carina Round either inside the wrestling ring itself, or on the edge of stage right.
The show itself was divided into four Acts, with often obtuse visuals enhancing the music from the backdrop screen. All but one song from the new album, Money $hot (on Puscifer Entertainment) was played (even the iTunes-only track ‘Flippant’) though not in the same order as on the record.
Guitarist Mat Mitchell proved to be the steady musical rock on guitar, with Paul Barker (formerly of Ministry) on bass and Mahsa Zargaranon on keys, samples, and guitar filling out the live band. Wrestlers Luchafer had been watching from the side grandstands, posturing at each other, before briefly returning to the ring to battle anew at the break point between Acts.
UK vocalist Round, a solo star in her own right, continues to take a more active role in the band, lending a more cohesive nature to the narrative and is a fine vocal counterpart to Keenan’s wandering-in-the-desert in an altered state voice. Shining in particular on Act II’s ‘Vagina Mine’ and Act III’s ‘Rev 22:20’, Round’s voice soared over Mitchell’s dark riffs and accompanying synths on the latter, with its lyrics, “Saviors and saints, devils and heathens alike; She'll eat you alive”.
The momentum building hit its stride in the Third Act, continuing with initial single, ‘Grand Canyon’ and “witnessing the majesty” of the sprawling natural wonder from all angles on video followed by ‘The Rapture’, with a snarling Keenan emoting “Like a bad idea, echoing salvation, threatening damnation, about to drop you like Cain”.
As the main alarm stations were all backstage or generally out of the public sight, it can assumed that the increasing smoke coming from certain parts of the audience (that grew exponentially as the set continued), eventually activated the sensors. The outside of the arena was lights, sirens, and confusion, with many just standing around talking just outside the doors.
After just under a half-hour, the emergency services had cleared and the venue was allowed to be re-entered, though a fair portion of the crowd had gone home at that point. But, to the band’s credit, they picked up where they left off, completing Act IV on an extra loud note, with the encore songs (band never left the stage) ending the night more gently.
The group even made light of the situation on social media following the show, tweeting “insert joke about the band being ON FIRE tonight”, complete with video of the fire alarm itself and the droning repetitive sound.
Despite the impromptu evac break (which might have been more appropriate happening during ‘The Arsonist’), the band ably rebounded with momentum to end the show and give everyone the “money $hot” they’d been more than patiently waiting for. Puscifer stage shows are always known for their often-indescribable uniqueness and this unexpected night in Minneapolis, was no exception.
Puscifer at Northrop Auditorium, Minneapolis (23 March 2016)