Two girls with mustaches and a guy wearing neon face paint are kneeling down to help a woman who is convulsing into a seizure on the floor. A few feet away, a man named Corey Feldman is swinging around a glowing neon LED scepter. It’s a crazy scene, but not the weirdest thing that’s ever happened at a Man Man show.
“We might’ve been exorcising her demons,” says Honus Honus, when he is told about the woman’s incident a few days later over wings at a restaurant called Mad For Chicken. But still, he’s seen stranger things in his time fronting Man Man. “A woman gave birth in the audience once. The child was a little premature. It was a preemie. It was kind of fucked up because we had to stop the show.”
At this point, it should be noted that Honus has an uncanny ability to deliver complete, utter bullshit with a straight face. His unkempt cowboy mustache is instrumental in masking his facial emotion. The man has no tell. He is in constant poker mode. But his drummer, Pow Pow, nods along earnestly, lending the story some credibility. Honus continues with his possibly-bullshit-but-seemingly-true story: “Her water broke and it was just coming out and we didn’t know how that was gonna turn out. We didn’t know if the kid was gonna die. We didn’t wanna have a baby die at our show. Fortunately, there was a doctor there. He was a dentist but he knew how to deliver the baby because he’s used to pulling out teeth. So the baby got to the hospital. Her name is Samantha. She’s a little undersized but she’s cool.”
As ludicrous as this story sounds, he seems to be genuinely serious. Honus then goes on to tell a story about playing a festival where he brought an 8-year-old superfan in a ninja mask on stage and used him as an instrument of sorts, repeatedly bodyslamming him on the keyboard along to the beat. Pow Pow recalls, “The kid kept looking right at me like, ‘Holy shit, this is really happening!’” Man Man is for the children.
Honus Honus with 8-year-old Man Man superfan/improvised Man Man instrument.
It’s not surprising that Man Man attracts such weirdness. The Philadelphia band’s sound is truly uncategorizable. It fits in with no genre and each of their albums seems intent on distinguishing itself from the last, regardless of what fans or critics think. “I’m kind of an extremes person. I want you to either love us or I want you to hate us. If you wanna waffle in the middle ground, there’s a fucking entire world of music dedicated to it. If you wanna go to a show and fold your arms and just bob your head, and recycle ideas, you can. You don’t have to like our band.”
The band has 5 albums to show for the last decade of its existence, each distinct and eccentric in its own way. This sometimes leads fans to play favorites. Some like Life Fantastic. Others might be diehard Six Demon Bag fans. “This girl in Denver was giving me a really hard time about our last couple of records,” says Honus. “She wished we just kept making the same first record. And I was like, ‘I love ya, honey, but we already made that record and you can go home and listen to it.’”
Man Man’s constant evolution is what seems to draw in the oddball characters, like the light-up scepter-wielding gentleman who, again, is named Corey Feldman or the ladies with mustaches. Seeing a woman singing along to the band’s lyrics wearing a full-on fake mustache is double-take inducing but Honus seems to like that it’s become something of a trend among Man Man ladyfans. “I hate to admit this, but it’s kind of hot in a weird way.” The mustaches, oddly enough, have become a long-standing pillar of Man Man. “It’s weird how that happened,” he says. “When the band started, I was going through a really bad breakup. I was thinking of what the most revolting thing I could do to myself was. So I grew a mustache.”
The mustache is just one of many Man Man traditions Honus has forced upon himself. He also goes through several costume changes over the course of a show, donning muumuus, blazers, masks and elegant robes. It’s not something he necessarily enjoys. “It makes me feel uncomfortable,” he says. “I hate having to air quote ‘be a frontman.’ It fucking sucks. But I’ve kind of embraced having fun with it by putting myself in uncomfortable scenarios like wearing a dress.”
One of Honus’ on-stage outfits is a tunic covered in images of CNN host Wolf Bllitzer’s face. There’s also a song inspired by him on Man Man’s newest album, On Oni Pond. Last month, it attracted the attention of silver fox, Anderson Cooper, who devoted a segment of his show to it. The Blitz himself even got in on the action and had a little fun with the association on air, playing a clip from the song and reading a quote from Honus.
On Oni Pond is actually Man Man’s first album to include lyrics in the insert booklet. If they had done this on previous albums, who knows the celebrity attention they might’ve attracted. “I wrote a song for Liza Minnelli back in the day,” swears Honus. “It was called ‘Liza, Won’t You Rise Up’. I had just read an article about how she was just returning to the stage after having an accident and falling and getting hurt really badly. It had to be kind of tough. I love Liza Minnelli.”
A Google search for "Liza, Won't You Rise Up" returned zero results. Whether or not he’s bullshitting is up to you.
On Oni Pond is out now from Anti Records and it is fantastic, despite what Pitchfork says.
Dan Dan Ozzi Ozzi is a contributing editor at Noisey and, like most non-pornstars, looks terrible with a mustache. Follow him on Twitter - @danozzi