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Man Man embraces 'orchestrated chaos'

| Thursday, March 15, 2007

Man Man may not be the manliest band in the land. There are plenty of hirsute, bare-chested country or death-metal bands lining up for that honor.

But the full-throated, guttural wolfman howl of Man Man's chief soul shouter Honus Honus, aka Ryan Kattner, clearly comes from a dude. Coming from an indie rock scene that reveres sensitive souls such as Sufjan Stevens and the Decemberists, slapping Man Man on the stereo is like chasing a glass of delicate pinot noir with a shot of tequila.

"I just wanted kind of a blanket name," Kattner says. "The only thing about having a name like Man Man is people obsess about your facial hair."

To describe the group's Man Man, you might as well throw out the thesaurus. It's like Screamin' Jay Hawkins fronting a self-taught gypsy circus band, or the surreal blues of Tom Waits folded into the spastic musical personality disorder of Frank Zappa.

Some songs are demented waltzes, some are soul vamps -- like their show-stopping cover of Etta James' "I'd Rather Go Blind." Others are experimental noise. Somehow, it all fits together.

"It's pop music," Kattner says. "Well, I guess it's pop music in an experimental framework. The only thing we actively think about is that we don't want to be 'another band.' We didn't want to be a rock band. I don't know if we are or not, but I don't think so."

One rock-band characteristic is their predilection for stage names.

"People love characters," he says. "It's making my personal life a little harder though. I'm starting to feel a little more schizophrenic. I keep forgetting that I am Honus Honus and Ryan Kattner, and they're one and the same."

"I think if I was Honus Honus all the time, I wouldn't have a band. I'd be locked up."

The five guys in Man Man all seem to play several instruments at once, ranging from trumpet, banjo, saxophones and electric keyboards to steel buckets, toys and bowls of water. Everybody plays some kind of percussion.

The breakthrough album for the Philadelphia band, "Six Demon Bag," has an uninhibited, spontaneous vibe few other bands even attempt. That goes double or triple for performances.

"It's orchestrated chaos," Kattner says. "We 'let the bomb go off,' but we let it go off within a framework. When we play shows, they're rehearsed. They're not improvised. We have sections where we can let loose a little bit, but for the most, part it's arranged."

We all need to blow off steam now and then. Man Man just happens to do it onstage.

"It's therapeutic," Kattner says. "When you ride in a van for eight-hour stretches, sit around and wait to play late at night, and pack your gear up at 3 in the morning, that hour that you have onstage, you've really got to make it count. Otherwise, you're blowing it.

"So, we just sort of let it all hang out. It can be ugly. It can be beautiful. We don't care about looking cool. We just want to make good music and connect. There's nothing more gratifying than when an audience connects, and we can feed off the energy of the audience." Additional Information:

Man Man

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Diesel, 1601 E. Carson St., South Side

Admission: $12

Details: 412-431-8800

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