There was a time in my not-so-distant past that I had the wild opportunity to sing in a band.
But this wasn’t my typical project of coo-ing to acoustic love songs.
This band had a very specific theme: political absurdity. Let me introduce you to Fat Kat ‘n the Lobbyists—our lead singer, Fat Kat, would transform himself into what I can only describe as a cross between an anthropomorphic, overweight cat and the Monopoly man. He would affix grease painted whiskers onto his face and a fuzzy tail on his rear, fake hundred dollar bills falling out of his tailored money suit. He once wrote the entire U.S. Constitution on a roll of toilet paper and unraveled it out into the audience. My character was Shelly Spillage, petrol lobbyist extraordinaire with stuffed animals covered in oil (ahem, black paint) hot-glued to my blazer. We had Corn Cob Monsanto on the drums and Wally Wall Street wailing on his guitar. As you may have guessed, our songs held satirical content about the state of our political system.
My experience got me thinking—where are the other deliciously weird bands in Columbus? I’m talking about the misfits who go beyond the music to deliver a truly memorable experience to the audience. Where did they draw their inspiration from? Fortunately, my curiosity has led me to find some of the greatest shows I’ve experienced in our city, with the production value rivaling the music.
Terrestrials: Sweatpant Punks
As the red light dimmed in Double Happiness, a front man lit a cigarette and smoked it through his full-face, red mask—the same mask is available at their merch table alongside thrifted sweatpants with the band name slapped across the ass. As the music began, the front man—lead human, front prophet, whatever—Ian Graham began to shake his shoulders and dance. Even as the music got heavier and Ian screamed into the mic, he never missed a move. The band’s main motive in songwriting is to focus on earth in relevance to space and the triviality of our world’s problems. This may help to explain Ian’s ability to dance and shake it off while he performs. As he put it, “I’m just trying to emote. Give a genuinely good performance, you know? I’m not the most proficient musician, but I know that I would rather watch someone giving it their all than just standing there like a statue. Too many boring, bland ass bands in the boom, lately. You know who you are.” The whole show was blood-pumping and thrilling, making the head-banging neck-hurts the next morning feel very well earned—and very worth it.
See it live: 11.19 @ Cafe Bourbon St.
O(f)verandas: The Spiritual Journey
As we descended into the basement of the North Broadway house, my boyfriend, Matt, and I silenced our giggling when we noticed everybody sitting on the ground—half with heads in hands. Looking around for the Kool-Aid jug and a place to settle, I noticed Bernard Iannone, the man behind O(f)verandas, sitting in the front of the crowd. Emulating Ravi Shankar, Bernard guided the entire audience with his electronic ambiance. As we settled into the corner to watch, the soft lighting and never-ending music pushed me into a meditation, or a nap, or some dreamlike state in the middle. At one point, there was a five-minute window where I could only experience spins. This music was wrapping me up. And while Bernie played, it was impossible for us basement dwellers to escape it. In between songs, Bernie’s soft voice guided us back into the four walls and kindly explained what would be coming next, or where the inspiration came for his mind spa music. When it finally ended, I stood up and shuffled out in a dream-like state. On the kitchen table upstairs, surrounded by quiet, calmed people sat a stack of CDs in handmade cases—I grabbed a one in hopes of using it to fly around my darkened room later. The entire experience made me feel light and dreamy. I just wanted to drink hot tea and start a band called Pink Moon Sunset TV Show.
Mummula: Monster Mash
Against the backdrop of Tree Bar, Mummula came out on stage, four musicians in mummy masks every single show. When I asked the band about their aesthetic, they answered playfully, “What masks? We’re mummulas—half-mummy, half-Dracula—it’s just our way! It seems out of place here in Columbus, but in our native Sandsylvania, we’re considered to be very stylish.” I went to the show alone, biked over on a late Saturday night, and quickly made friends. The entire crowd was stoked for the show, and I had no idea what to expect. When they started playing, I was extremely surprised. With a name like Mummula, I had been expecting the Misfits, maybe some screamo, or at least some gothic undertones. However, the group sounded a lot more garage and surf rock to my ears. The entire show was upbeat and energetic, and the whole crowd was moving. At one point I climbed onto a chair to see if I could guess who was who of these stage names: Eric von Goosebump, Jon Alien, Mark Hovthevampyre, El Santos, and KevBot 2.0.
See it live: 11.22 @ Spacebar
Rafting: The Visual Ride and The Electro-Guide
On the stage at Spacebar, Rafting set up for its electric ride. This being the latest project from Dallin Stevenson, he’s no stranger to this stage or performing edgy electronic in Columbus. Seeking transport for his audience and self, Dallin and his live-visual creating partner, Emily Engel, work in tandem to travel down esoteric musical roads. Emily matches the visuals to Dallin’s live performance, which is all at once mind-blowing and relaxing. In one moment, his .01ep feels like a youthful Flaming Lips, and then a song later, it is dirtier, sharper, and more intense. Dallin works to play on the energy between himself and the crowd through his performance; and Emily, perceiving that sensation, adapts the visuals to match. The entire crowd is close-eyed swaying, feeling the amazing music. It is hard to believe this show is happening in Columbus. Very soon, the EP along with new tracks will be released on a cassette tape. (For a taste, look to Spotify—I’ve been blasting it daily since the show.) Rafting is making an online visualizer to accompany the tape in hopes of emulating the live performance’s trippy journey.
See it live: 11.8 @ Spacebar