All bets are off with a live show. Gil Mantera’s Party Dream will most likely never impact popular music history as utterly as The Reputation, The New Pornographers, and Belle and Sebastian already have. But live, the Youngstown, Ohio brother duo smoked all three. Gil and his brother Donny traffic in the kind of clinical insanity that evaporates all the critical faculties of indie types searching for cheap thrills. It’s the very quality that would no doubt prove insufferably cultish over a full-length if not an entire career. But it suited the 40-minutes-per-band cheap thrills intensity of SXSW beautifully. Singer/guitarist Donny informed us that Gil Mantera’s Party Dreams was four words, not one word like “goat” or “mouse dragon.” He admitted that he was a “stinky little shrimp.” He quoted from the Bible: “People who eat sausages more than real hot dogs shall perish. People whose pussies are better than the next girl’s shall perish. That’s why I like the Bible; it has a lot of good messages.” He told us about Youngstown, Ohio where there are two things—Gil Mantera’s Party Dream and the mafia. The cost of living is good, though. And all in a hyper David Johansen drawl constantly rushing to keep up with itself. Unfortunately, he never got to finish his Bruce Dickinson soliloquy (“I thought I was Bruce Dickinson; not in spirit but . . .”) because Gil kicked off the next song’s drum program, rising Donny’s already considerable ire. This was only one of several fraternal scuffles, the worst somehow resulting in a bloody lip for Donny. Here’s a brother act that need never break up since they were already doing it all over the stage.
The pic above will hopefully speak a thousand words for their nutter sartorial sense. But it’s worth noting that Donny’s leather pants were eventually shucked off, which was their inevitable destination since the first number. That left his penis in a convenient purple pouch for one lucky fan in the front to jiggle. Gil placed his hands down his velvet hip huggers on occasion and almost gave a glimpse of the peep. For a finale, he shoved his velveted ass into the audience, which the same lucky fan promptly mocked eating.
Nuttiest of all was their glitzy new wave. Gil’s synths and vocoder choruses lent the music a blissed out shallowness, which you could read in his permanent grin and the remedial jazz steps of his dancing. But Donny offered a spiritual counterpart with guitaristics that occasionally recalled the billowy tufts of (can this be?) Manuel Gottsching. Id/super ego, E2-E4, brand new/you’re retro, but never quite coming together in a true synthesis. As such, they remind me of Andrew WK—fans and well-wishers will spend most of their pleasure on debating whether or not the Manteras really mean it.
Oh—I was struck by how closely the tiny crowd stood to the stage. Leaving the venue for the night, I noticed the crowd stepped way back for the following band.
Capped off the evening with a blast of Art Brut. Lead haranguer Eddie Argos is riding his moment with an obnoxious fervor that made you notice his show. He’s an aging lounge lizard with a cheesy moustache and a spare tire to show for it. But seeing him natter on in front of the mixed gender and age band he’s formed gave his smarty pants lyrics a corny one world aspect missing in a haranguing godfather like Mark E. Smith. Brainy and corny—two great tastes you almost never get in the same candy bar and it put Argos’s sex appeal through the roof. Even sexier than the hot blond guitarist to his left (and yes, the latter always had that devilish stare going on—see photo, below).
Behind the band jammed junky but with pop-edged precision. At the show’s climax, Argos asked: “Are you in a band? WHY are you in a band?” The Adorno in me thought he posed the question as a critique of capitalism’s encouragement of unbridled self-expression. But he closed off the speech: “If you’re not in a band, go form a band!” And compete with you, honey?