One for the Road – Puscifer – Ovens Auditorium – Charlotte, NC


Carina Round and Maynard James Keenan of Puscifer performing at the Ovens Auditorium in Charlotte, NC

Puscifer’s music cannot easily be defined nor categorized.  Call them alternative, progressive, electro-rock or for that matter whatever you want to, as I have a strong inclination that the band could care less about what label anyone would attempt to slap on to them.

All you really need to know about Puscifer is that they have produced more incredibly unique and thought provoking music over these past eight years than most bands would be capable of delivering if given fifty years to generate.

Maynard James Keenan, who admonishes the idea of Puscifer being a side project to the outfits he is more often associated with, Tool and A Perfect Circle, has referred to Puscifer as being his, “creative subconscious.”

This seems about right as perhaps the only things more compelling than the band’s music is their penchant for absurdity, dark humor, theatrical antics, over the top visuals and the superb musicianship that are par for the course as they pertain to any Puscifer live performance.  All of this and more was on full display as Puscifer brought their current production, in support of their most recent studio release Money Shot, to the Ovens Auditorium in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Puscifer is well known for wrapping their live performance within bizarre themes and this tour cycle proved to be much of same.  Eschewing a band to serve as the opening act, Kennan and company this time around have chosen to enlist the talents of Luchafer, a Mexican wrestling Lucha libre troupe that not only provides the appetizer for the main performance but one that sticks around for Puscifer’s entire set.

Luchafer’s antics are wildly entertaining, particularly their interaction with the band as they performed. Their inclusion throughout the duration of the concert not only provided context to the show’s overall theme, their presence ended up a creating a show within a show feel that helped to keep the audience guessing and entertained from beginning to end.

Puscifer’s performance on the evening was delivered in three acts much as if it were being performed as an actual play.  Considering the band is playing a multitude of venues on this tour that often host theater and ballet oriented events, this approach actually made sense.

The set list on the evening leaned heavily on the Puscifer’s recently released third studio LP Money Shot, as the band essentially performed the record it’s entirely minus the iTunes exclusive track, “Flippant”.

The band also wasn’t afraid to dip into tracks from their sophomore LP Conditions of my Parole , as they performed “Telling Ghosts,” “Toma,” “Horizons,” and a track that co-vocalist Carina Round truly shined on, “Man Overboard”.

Round herself proved to be the perfect match for Kennan himself.  Her vocals both blended in nicely with Keenan’s to create a rich and overpowering sound while also at times providing haunting backdrops and sonic depth to other songs throughout the evening.

Unlike in recent years with Tool, where Kennan is often set back on stage remaining largely still, with Puscifer the unpredictable front man was completely engaged.

One moment Keenan was crab walking and stomping in the Lucha libre’s makeshift wrestling ring and the next he’s beyond animated as he lead the pack in rooting on a mock cock fight going on close to the front of the stage.  And yes if you’re wondering there was a faux chicken battle and an actual human with a chicken head darting about stage at times.

The band’s sophomore release, the excellent 2007’s “V” for Vagina,” was also represented on the evening as the band broke out three stand out tracks from the record including “Vagina Mine,” “The Undertaker” and “REV 22:20.”

Much like Keenan’s more universally well known project Tool and to a lesser extent A Perfect Circle, Puscifer’s music is layered, dark and quite intricate.

Consider the complexity it requires to bring this type of music to the lighted stage in order to fully capture it properly, it’s no surprise Kennan would enlist sublimely talented musicians such as band main stays Mat Mitchell (guitar) and Jeff Friedel (drums) as well as new touring members Ministry’s Paul Barker (bass) and Juliette Commegere (keys/guitar) to help pull off Puscifer’s live performance.

Without question Puscifer’s performance on the evening was beyond engrossing from first note to last.  Keenan and company aren’t afraid to take chances and make their live audiences actually think.  To be honest, how many bands out there are even capable of doing this let alone actually pulling it off competently?

Should you have the fortune of Puscifer playing within you traveling vicinity radius I’d highly advice you spend the time and the money to attend.  Following their performance I feel strongly you will be laughing and smiling, while also being a bit confused and wondering for a least a moment, what the hell just happened?

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