Not everyone at the Capitol Theater for Puscifer’s SLC stop was scruffy, pierced and topped with a beanie. Sure, there were those, but despite Maynard James Keenan’s understandable appeal to the working class dirtbag in us all, the crowd was diverse, including gents in suits and several older couples. One unescorted grandmother looked shocked to be felt up by security in the plush Capitol Theater lobby, but she didn’t fight when they took her ballpoint pen away.
I fought back. I had two pens, and I needed them. A mountainous security guy relented, but only because I was reviewing the show. I’m hazy on why pens are verboten, but I get why recorders are a problem and I applaud the insistence that cellphones be turned off. Even when not used for illicit recordings, constant tweeting, texting and Facebook updating is an insult to any performer who has sweated and bled to create art. You paid to be here, so pay attention and update your status later.
Still, the phones weren’t as distracting as the thuggish security folks hovering at the edges, hissing at, talking sternly to and escorting out the unrepentant cell phone addicts. At what point is the distraction of phones worth it so people can enjoy the damn show?
And enjoy it we did, despite the fascist bullyboys. The audience was appreciative right from the warm-up performance by powerhouse British rocker Carina Round, who also provided vocals on Puscifer’s latest release, Conditions of My Parole. Supporting Round were backing vox and laptop-twiddler Claire Acey and Sam Stewart (both from Nightmare and the Cat), Matt McJunkins of 30 Seconds to Mars and A Perfect Circle, and Josh Eustis of Black Light Burns and Telefon Tel Aviv.
Although many seats were empty for Round’s performance, she earned whistles and catcalls for her classic beauty, poise through some sound problems and excellent performance of Mediterranean-flavored alt-rock comparable to Poe or PJ Harvey, with a touch of Jane’s Addiction.
In bars, you use the break between opener and headliner to get a drink or grab a smoke, but with only expensive drinks in the lobby and a strict no re-entry policy, I worried the crowd would grow restless. But Keenan’s got a tool for that: a hilarious mockumentary about the fall and further fall of a redneck “punk” band starring Keenan and a cast of “Hee-Haw” rejects.
Finally, dressed in a black cowboy getup, Keenan pulled a tiny Airstream trailer (a prop from the film) onto the stage and the former set designer began to set the stage, literally, placing camp chairs around a faux campfire, all the while describing his vision of Puscifer. While loosely a stage name for Keenan’s “solo” work, it’s also an artistic vision covering design, clothing and anything else that a famous and admittedly pretentious rock star feels like turning his attentions to. With a nod to his latest love, Caduceus Cellars wines, he set out two bottles for the band and invited first Round and then McJunkins and Eustis, along with Mat Mitchell and drummer Jeff Friedl, to join him in his Americana kitschy “impromptu” drum circle and launched into the performance. Acey and Stewart even enjoyed their dinner at a table on stage while the band performed, adding to the “camping in the desert” artifice.