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Telling Ghosts: Puscifer, Carina Round @ Long Center for the Performing Arts, 2/23/12

February 24, 2012

“Echoes and specters and ghosts of none the wiser
Apparitions each, bad decisions brush on by
Envious in the ever after
Electric fuzzy haze of regrets and dreams denied”

~”Telling Ghosts”, Puscifer

“Life is too short not to create something with every breath you draw”, he tells us, in his own spin on sustainability. He is outfitted in a cowboy hat, long leather jacket, and is slightly out of breath from wheeling out a mini airstream on stage. He is Maynard James Keenan: manufacturer of words for Tool, A Perfect Circle, and Puscifer; creator of Caduceus wine.

The night began with half of Puscifer on stage as Carina Round, whose powerful voice filled the room, further intoxicating it’s inhabitants. The confessional lyrics were almost uncomfortable at times, but the sweet delivery softened the blow.

Between sets, the audience became immersed in the world of Billy Dee and Hildy, who’s twang-ladled, whiskey-drinkin’, Wal-Mart shopping, Jerry Springer-like squabbling affairs felt almost too close to home here in Texas. Then, as we were reminded about the no camera policy and who we were about to see- the guy from “The Tools” and “The Full Circles”, the crowd boiled over and left the comfort of their seats.

The stage is set by the man himself, and each piece builds a site familiar to this Austin crowd, a campfire picnic. As he unpacks each piece from the airstream, Keenan speaks in a didactic yet inspirational tone to set the mood of what we were about to become a part of.

“The desert is a place we go to either find or lose ourselves.” I think we have to lose ourselves to find ourselves, and I’ve always found the desert to be the perfect setting. While I’m partial to Joshua Tree, I’ve been to Jerome- headquarters to Puscifer– and the symbiotic relationship of weirdness that the town has with the essence of the band is palpable.

Everything before the moment that Keenan opens his mouth to sing has just been polite waiting; now we can indulge and lose ourselves in the music. When I first saw Puscifer, it felt so detached from what we know Keenan for that it confused some fans into ambivalence. Not anymore. I think the music of Puscifer has gotten more atmospheric and moody, and the listeners understand better the intention of the band; thus meeting somewhere in the middle, a place of continued admiration for the esoteric way of Keenan.

Sitting in the middle of the orchestra section, I could hear every nuance of this band of true talents. If I wanted to focus in on the drums or the guitar, I could do so…or my ears could step back and hear it as a whole; it was as complex as taking a sip of Nagual del Sensei. Speaking of, they’re drinking wine between songs from stemless glasses, in laid back perfection.

Video interludes were wedged between songs; my favorite being one entitled “What Do Aliens Listen To?” Apparently, good aliens listen to Christina Aguilera; bad aliens listen to Tool.

The crowd swells when the setlist comes to “Vagina Mine”, a song that I’m compelled to sing along with even though I feel vulgar. Other favorites included “Dozo”, “Potions”, “Momma Sed”, “Telling Ghosts”, and my personal highlight, an altered version of “The Undertaker”. I love that song so much; and tonight’s arrangement made it even more beautiful and full of vengeance.

As the set progressed, the vocalists’ warped dancing became more exaggerated, as the wine and adrenaline took hold and the fact that the first show of this leg of the tour was nearly complete. The band gathered around the campfire as the show wound down, and band introductions – including Keenan as a self-proclaimed “world-class curmudgeon”- melded with a statement about how the band is independent and free of record labels, which garnered massive applause by this crowd of people who take the alternate route themselves.

We grooved, we swayed, we let the beautiful oddity of Puscifer wash over us. Like a trip to the desert, perhaps some of us lost ourselves, and some of us were found.

“Thank you for making me
feel like I’m guilty
Making it easy to murder your sweet memory”

~”The Undertaker”, Puscifer


“Maynard Monologue”
“The Green Valley”
“Tiny Monsters”
“Vagina Mine”
“The Rapture”
“The Weaver”
“Rev 22:20” (Maynard sang)
“Momma Sed”
“Conditions of My Parole”
“Man Overboard”
“Telling Ghosts”
“The Undertaker”

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