To my mind, one of the best features about any music festival is the opportunity to discover new bands I’ve never heard before. (Really, that principle applies to most shows, which is why it’s always worthwhile to catch the opening acts.) This was demonstrated beautifully on Thursday October 20, the opening night for the 2011 City Arts Festival. I’d planned to be at Chop Suey for Pogo, an artist I was very excited to see again. Unfortunately Pogo had to cancel his tour, and when I arrived that evening I discovered that due to further schedule restructuring, only one musician was left on the bill: That 1 Guy. I’d never heard of him, and I’d already changed my plans to catch Katie Kate and Mad Rad at Neumos later that evening, but I figured since I was already at Chop Suey I might as well stick around long enough to see what he was about. That turned out to be my best decision for the whole festival.
That 1 Guy plays a crazy contraption of an instrument that he calls “the magic pipe”. It’s a vertical pipe structure with two single-string lengths that he played with fingers or a bow, like a bass viol, but also by tapping on it with a drumstick. Tapping any of several large buttons cued various samples or loops, and two or three foot pads provided additional electronic controls. It was so cool. I quickly decided I wanted one myself. Besides all that, he had a separate drum, and at one point played a saw as well. Given the heavy electronic aspect of his instrument, he’d be a great addition to next year’s Decibel Festival, perhaps with some other DIY electronic-instrument-makers.
He opened with “Modern Man”, a kind of hard prog-rock song using a running synth line reminiscent of the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, and followed with a similarly heavy rocker. Later songs veered off into a roots-folk-punk-zydeco style, with toe-tapping and howling. When he broke out the saw—also wired into electronic gear for added effects—he bowed and tapped it for a gypsy-punk rendition of “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz. In a word, he was eclectic.
That 1 Guy engaged in some corny theatrics such as punching himself while triggering a sound effect, and some weird like donning a sock puppet who spoke in sound samples, but at all times he was fun and engaging. Although he risked seemed gimmicky given his DIY instrument and busker-style look and presence, it only took a song to see and hear that he had real musicianship both as a performer and a composer. I knew that nothing else at the festival would be this inventive, and with regret I left early only because I had other commitments for the festival. I will definitely be looking eagerly for my next opportunity to see That 1 Guy.