by Tif Harrison
I don’t listen to jam bands. I have been known to attend a festival, or two, where jam bands played but my motive to go was never the music. You can imagine the height of my expectations as I walked into the back room of Schuba’s to catch that1guy. I listened to a few tracks from that1guy’s newest album, but could not make it through any of the songs. As the crowd of fans began to file in, I took a deep breath, found a spot on the wall and waited.
Mike Silverman is shorter than I expected. Or maybe the giant steel pipe he plays dwarfs him. When he unveiled “The Magic Pipe,” a homemade instrument made of steel plumbing and electrical wires, the crowd roared and my jaw dropped. I had to fight back laughter. I didn’t want his fans, or him, to think it was coming from a judgmental place. It was coming from a “Holy-god-this-is-insane-I-can’t-wait-to-hear-this-thing,” place.
that1guy is the epitome of what a one-man show should be. I wouldn’t have been shocked to see cymbals strapped to his knees. I was shocked; however, by the range of sound that one person could produce live onstage. I was on another planet. If there isn’t a genre called Space Jazz yet, there should be. Silverman’s talent as a jazz musician was never in question. His fingers were a fleshy blur as he slapped and plucked the two bass strings that run the length of the pipe, creating sounds that resemble everything from African drums to hardcore metal guitar riffs. While the music that1guy creates is entirely electronic, you can’t ignore the organic undertones that accompany the synthetic beats. Oh, and did I mention he plays a cowboy boot like a hand-drum? Well, he does.
The performance really hit its stride when Silverman pulled out a handsaw and strapped a weight belt equipped with wooden dowels to his waist. The room grew silent as the handsaw sang haunted melodies and began to enchant the crowd. The head bobbing stopped. The dancing slowed. We were snakes being charmed.
By the time the he reached his finale, I had grown tired of the wolf cries being echoed by the audience and the poorly executed card tricks. As he called Heatbox, the opening beat box act, to the stage and turned on his smoke machine, I knew I was about to be roped back in. The two bounced sounds and rhythms off one another in the spirit of free form jazz. It was polished enough to sound professional but dirty enough to excite.
I didn’t love it all. I paid little attention to the lyrics of his songs, and when I did, I found them to be bland. However, I don’t feel like the appeal of That 1 Guy is that he’s a phenomenal writer. He also seemed to have a case of butter-fingers, but he was able to roll with the flubs as they came. Not many people can hit a music trigger with their foot as they pluck a bass string and catch a falling microphone at the same time.
“If you’re writing a review on this tonight, please mention my cat-like reflexes.”