Pizza Underground was One Big, Bizarre Pop Art Joke at Trees Last Night
Is anyone home? Pizza Underground cuts straight to the punchline
Courtesy the artist
Pizza Underground With Har Mar Superstar and Candy Boys Trees, Dallas Monday, November 10, 2014
New York's underground art scene put on an unofficial art installation in Dallas Monday night, bringing some of its most incomprehensible acts to Trees . Leading the way was Macaulay Culkin and performance-art-piece-meets-Herman-Cain-YouTube-video, the Pizza Underground.
Culkin, who had goofed on a recent death hoax with a Weekend at Bernie's shtick at Fun Fun Fun Fest on Saturday, had already visited Dallas with the Pizza Underground -- a Velvet Underground cover band that changes all the lyrics to an ode to pizza -- back in the spring. Somewhere Lou Reed is rolling in his grave with laughter, and Andy Warhol is probably rejoicing. After all, Culkin, just the sort of pop culture icon Warhol would've painted had he been alive in the '90s, parodying the very band he helped make famous.
The Pizza Underground even brought a touch of the Warhol inspiration to proceedings, right down to a man named Anchovy Warhol. Dressed the part in a silver wig, he created the visuals for the night (a la the Exploding Plastic Inevitable) and gets referred to by the band as the behind-the-scenes mastermind. Despite the well-executed Warholian dream sequence, the whole set-up ultimately felt more influenced by eccentric comedian Andy Kauffman.
Openers Candy Boys, for instance, are something that only a stoned Saturday Night Live writer's meeting could dream up, dressed in their smallest '80s-appropriate garb they find while rapping about candy. Initially, the sense of humor was appreciated by the chuckling audience, but it was a joke that stopped being funny before the punch line was delivered.
Second opener Har Mar Superstar's name was more than apt, however. He stole the show from the beginning, looking like Joseph's Technicolor Dreamcoat with his flashy poncho. Har Mar has the body of an everyday anti-hero, but even in the company of a band of athletic and good-looking musicians, he managed to exploit his own adorable unattractiveness. Resembling a cross between Ron Jeremy and an animated Jon Lovitz in The Critic, Har Mar constantly spun around, caressing his hair and swaying his body like an irresistible burlesque dancer. It was a completely transfixing experience.
Part of why Har Mar's physical presence works so well is that his voice has a quality of authentic luxury, a pampering and ingratiating depth to its sound. His brand of funky R&B is commercially promising; his song "Tall Boy" could've easily been a Justin Timberlake hit. With occasional Motown-esque ballads, such as "Lady You Shot Me," he has a particular sort of unsexy sex appeal, his comedic physical performance entwined with the serious, professional vocal delivery.
Halfway through his set, Har Mar was joined onstage by Culkin, who assured the audience once more that he is, in fact, alive. They sang a slow song to each other lovingly while dancing closely, Har Mar picking Culkin up and mockingly proposing to him. Culkin eagerly accepted. They closed their number by kissing on the lips, alone a moment worth the cost of admission.
An invigorated Har Mar then dropped to the floor, flipped upside down and sang an entire chorus maintaining a headstand, while unrelated closing movie credits played behind him. When he stripped down, even amid the combination of his naked torso and ridiculously enticing moves, he was by far the only performer who offered a value greater than a mere joke.
The Pizza Underground is, as band member Phoebe Kreutz has said, "A joke gone too far." It feels like the kind of amazing thing that happened once at a party, then got tarnished by efforts to reenact that spontaneity on the road. Pizza Underground played Club Dada back in March of this year, which might explain why the audience seems to shrink to half after Har Mar's performance, as the novelty of the concept doesn't quite hold up after their first song. The whole point of attending seems to be that of acquiring a great anecdote, and the band seems content to hold themselves at that value.
Guitar player Matt Colbourn sounded the closest to Lou Reed and is really the only member that should have been singing at all. The girls in the band were particularly and unapologetically off-key. There was Deenah Volmer, who bangs on a pizza box, and Kreutz, in a blonde wig and mock German accent, in the role of Nico. The band changes up their act ever so often with alternate satire band concepts. Volmer informed the audience that the only thing better than pizza is cats, then introduced the idea for "Pussy Joel," a Billy Joel cover band about cats, singing a sample song about her pussy. The joke continues through the night with "Poop Dylan," Dylan songs about poop, and so forth.
Culkin played a trumpet-shaped kazoo and maracas, and seemed to have come out of his body-guarded shell since his last visit. Possibly having come to terms with the curiosity-item factor he's blessed and cursed with, and having finally understood the sole attraction to any pizza cover band is only to see him in the flesh, especially given the premise and the fact that he's been killed off and resurrected by the Internet so often. For whatever reason, though, he seems liberated onstage.
The audience asked for an encore by chanting "One more slice!" and the band returned with "Take a Bite From a Wild Slice." The last song, a manic version of "Louie Louie" renamed "Juicy Goosey", reunited all the groups back onstage. The whole show makes a bit more sense: A touring group of friends aiming to amuse each other, all profiting still from John Hughes' decision to cast Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone many moons ago.
And why not? The collection of candy, pizza and poop themes is nauseating, but it's comforting to see Culkin is alive and well having a fun time while he's still among us. With or without the Warhol fragments of pop art, Har Mar Superstar was undoubtedly the real star of the show.
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