We REALLY haven't had a Blue Man Group post in eight years?!
November 12, 2010 1:03 AM   Subscribe

"Once you have established yourself as an icon in your field, it is important that you pay tribute to some of the great rock legends that came before you. This kind of gesture will create the illusion that you are still humble and serve as a preemptive strike against anyone who has noticed what a callous and delusional ass you have become."
posted by Rory Marinich (21 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Un-post-related commentary: I posted this because yesterday Sufjan Stevens played probably the best concert I've seen since I saw the Blue Man Group in high school. That concert reminded me of this one, and I found to my surprise and delight that it hadn't been posted or discussed here.
posted by Rory Marinich at 1:05 AM on November 12, 2010

Why have I not seen a blue man group concert yet? I'm missing out.
posted by dabitch at 1:24 AM on November 12, 2010

The I Feel Love one ("it is important...") is simply amazing. Thank you!
posted by Turtles all the way down at 1:35 AM on November 12, 2010

There is probably a thesis to be written in comparing the various uses of the "pitch shifted voice of masculine authority" in the works of Laurie Anderson, and the Blue Man Group's version.

One thing I respect the Blue Man Group for is making it just a little more clear that what is meant by "music" is mostly performance art (no sarcasm - the idea that music could be abstracted away from the act performance is not really how most music is best approached, despite the various fascinating experiments that this attitude made possible).
posted by idiopath at 1:38 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

For the Blue Men, the disembodied shifted voice is a performance of Cartesian duality, and also the superego to their blue painted id. They physically play the role of the bewildered visitor for whom everything is new and wonderful and language is inaccessible (giant toddlers, except with hand eye coordination and a sense of rhythm) and the deep voice is human, knows our language, and knows what is going on, and is surprised by nothing, and finds nothing novel or interesting. It has very little information to convey, nothing we didn't know yet when we were about 8 years old, it is mostly just the posture of conveying information. The implicit message conveyed by both the authoritative voice and the inquisitive bodies is that we are grown up now and done with learning, we can just relax and feel.

In Anderson's performance, the pitch shift is also a counterpoint to the rest of her performance. For her it is a form of drag, a gender disguise, "the manly expert". The voice is there to inform you, the audience member. The deep voice is there to actually tell you something you had not considered before (there may even be a punch line, but you'll have to think about it a bit first). The implicit message conveyed by both the normal Anderson voice and the pitch shifted one is that there is more for you to learn and invent, that we can make sense of things we have not yet made sense of, and more importantly we can ask questions and discover new things about what we once thought we already knew. It is a cerebral message, from a thinker to other thinkers.

Also, on the subject of debt to prior artists, between the pitch shifted vocals and the pastiche of the standard airplane spiel they had better have paid Anderson cash money for their debt to her prior work.
posted by idiopath at 2:03 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

That last comment was about the guys who paint themselves blue, right?
posted by hal_c_on at 2:09 AM on November 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

I just wanted to say FUCK YEAH RANDY RHOADS! about the Ozzy link. Unfortunately, the appeal of Blue Man Group still eludes me, though. I just don't get it. It's all just a techno version of Mummenschanz (read: creepy) to me.
posted by KingEdRa at 2:17 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

KingEdRa: "a techno version of Mummenschanz"

Thanks for that lead, Mummenshanz is awesome!
posted by idiopath at 2:30 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Rory, I saw Sufjan earlier this week here, and I thought it was fantastic as well. I'm a little ambivalent about BMG, however.
posted by Red Loop at 2:40 AM on November 12, 2010

Unfortunately, the appeal of Blue Man Group still eludes me, though. I just don't get it. It's all just a techno version of Mummenschanz (read: creepy) to me.

It's weird how I'm right there with you on your latter statement, but come to the exact opposite conclusion of your former statement. Pretty much if someone wanted to reel me in for any artistic performance, all they'd have to do is say, "Think a techno version of Mummenschanz," and I'd be like, "FUCKIN' SOLD"

I first saw Blue Man Group when I was eleven or twelve, and I don't think it's an exaggeration to say it was one of the most formative cultural experiences of my young life. I'd never really been exposed to the idea that mime could be anything other than those goofy black-and-white French guys that get trapped in boxes, so to see these three spooky-acting guys engaging in perfectly deadpan dystopian-looking slapstick was something of a revelation for me.

Recently, I saw their "Tubes" show again, though, and was kind of disappointed by it; while a lot of the show is mirthy and playful and wacky, there are certain parts of it that seem to piss on the idea of anything deemed excessively avant-garde or esoteric. Which seems like a smirkily dickish move for three dudes whose entire fucking show is an intentionally-bizarre pageant of neo-primalism-as-response-to-modernity. Possibly the thinking behind that smirkery is a sort of populist attempt to defuse the idea that the performer is any more knowledgeable than the audience, but man, I just found it sort of cynically mean-spirited.

BUT: I still quite like the music; if nothing else, I have a real soft spot for gamelan-like percussion-as-melody, and I enjoy the hell out of instruments made from everyday objects.
My favorite original song of theirs: PVC IV
posted by Greg Nog at 5:29 AM on November 12, 2010 [4 favorites]

Oh, and that Baba O' Riley cover is a lot of fun! On the topic of zany Who covers: Petra Haden Can See For Miles
posted by Greg Nog at 5:39 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Dear Photoshop nerds, please replace the Blue Men on a poster with Dr. Manhattan's face and call it Blue Manhattan Group. Please.
posted by mkb at 6:00 AM on November 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

wow! i havent seen BLUE MAN since they first came out. that was ... what? 30 years ago?!?! i had to wear a plastic trash back over my clothes because i was sitting in the front row of the theater ... what was that theater across the street from The Public on Lafayette St? grock, that's how long ago it was.
posted by liza at 6:47 AM on November 12, 2010

There's got to be a better way to say that.
posted by Rangeboy at 7:44 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh how I fucking LOVE Blue Man. I've probably seen them half a dozen times in various cities. Growing up, my buddy and I became so obsessed with them that we set out to re-create many of the PVC instruments they use, and even made a pretty damn good Drumbone if I do say so myself.

I also remember their old application online - one of the job requirements was 'must have sparkle in eyes.' I loved that.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:52 AM on November 12, 2010

I love love love the How To Be A Rock Star tour. I took some co-workers with me to see it, and it completely rocked their world. They'd simply never seen anything like that before. I'd never seen BMG live before, but I sort of knew what I was getting into. Great stuff. I'm actually wearing my "Rock And Roll Movements" t-shirt at this very moment! (Watch out for #4 -- it's a doozy.)

If you really want it, you can get the DVD of the show. It's also great.
posted by hippybear at 10:20 AM on November 12, 2010

I think the visual of the "voice" of their shows (a waveform) is a nod to some of the things Devo did in their music videos.
I've seen them three times. The first at the Astor Place theater I got to be an audience participant and THEY TOOK ME UP ON STAGE!!!
Second was in Chicago amidst college and high school students...very rowdy.
However the last time was in Las Vegas and it was like geezer night or something.
The audience just sat there all "Meh!".
I LOVE BMG. I'd say that if you don't quite get them, then you haven't sat down and listened to THE COMPLEX CD. It transcends the stage performance with universal themes of identity and struggle in the modern world.
posted by No Shmoobles at 10:22 AM on November 12, 2010

Greg Nog, when I clocked your link I was SO HOPING that somehow your favorite BMG song would remind me of my favorite BMG song, but in fact YOUR favorite BMG song IS my favorite BMG song. Thank you!!!!
posted by Jezebella at 1:25 PM on November 12, 2010

Stumbled across this one of Tiesto and BMG. It's kind of crazy awesome.
posted by lazaruslong at 3:30 PM on November 12, 2010

Your favorite grandma-safe performance troupe sucks.
posted by lumpenprole at 7:53 PM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

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