Writing and Photography by Bobby Talamine
Edited by Fiza Javid
And so here we are at the Chicago Theatre, the glorious and iconic marquee all lit up on all sides- emblazoned for all to see, and giddy with excitement thereof: "Jam Presents Puscifer- This Saturday July 2".
And the crowd, already lined up since 10 am apparently.
Found that odd, since it's a reserved seating kind of theatre.
So when I arrived, I had to ask. It turns out that every date of this Existential Reckoning Tour, a unique one of a kind poster is made for the event, somewhere in the neighborhood of around fifty total.
But the line- has to be close to three hundred or so and an hour before doors open, stretching south on State Street to the alley, and then going east to Wabash.
Just goes to show yet again, like anything Tool related merch wise, is equal with all things Puscifer merch wise- a rabid fan base that devours anything and everything Maynard related.
And with Puscifer, there's a lot to take in that's downright funny, that's downright macabre, that's downright sophisticated cabaret production wise, along with smidgeons of absurdist theatre thrown in for good measure.
It technically starts in my opinion for the promotion for said Existential Reckoning Tour 2022- at the bottom of the scheduled date announcements with this little bit of news: "PREPARE TO BE PROBED", with of course the prehistoric- ish alien pencil and ink illustration added in for good measure.
That should give you lots of intel right then and there.
And if you need to cut to the chase on absurdist comedy from a legit photographer's perspective- yes, having covered Tool since their inception, let alone A Perfect Circle and on and on, you get to know the photo policies like the back of your hand.
But it became downright comical a half of the way through their first song of the night- "Bread and Circus", when both Maynard (aka Special Agent Dick Merkin) and Carina Round stop in their tracks and yell "Spam! Spam! Spam!"- and point to one individual in particular, which is code word for banned cell phone usage, which leads to eviction from the venue.
All this did was incite a couple patrons around my purview, pointing to me and yelling the same thing, as if to pounce because of my camera gear and photography taking, although authorized, and with clear as the present day photo pass.
Had to show that pass what seemed like multiple times to anyone and everyone for that two songs allotted, which is not a complaint really, it just goes to show how the audience follows said rules from said band, and everyone please act accordingly.
Enough of that though, as funny as it was- bottom line from that to the actual show, there's a lot of comedy to go around, courtesy of Special Agent Dick Merkin, on the scene as always, seeking out extraterrestrials, who are apparently living among us, mostly hybrid celebrity related, with mutant offspring mixed together to make the likes of Justin Bieber, Wendy O Williams, and so on.
The videos with Agent Merkin offhandedly and matter of factly explaining said macabre extraterrestrials, with Max Headroom video glitches thrown in for good measure are as funny as all get out- With matter- of- fact statements such as they have discovered and "identified a hidden mobile cloning facility that is alien owned and operated, and which appears to be run by a combination of genetic engineers, public relation biologists, booking agents and oh so smug social media influencers, all extraterrestrial in nature. The purpose of the clones is still a mystery, but it appears that the aliens are either downright duplicating and or replacing red carpet celebrities that have been deemed mediocre or without outdated fashion sensibilities".
So you see when you have too much time on your hands, and you morph into other characters and offshoots of your wicked man when your main occupation is on a bit of a vacation?
You write about the absurdity of it all, exposing what we all know, if you're the occasional watcher of anything B related daytime TV, or "Entertainment Tonight", "Access Hollywood", or even Tucker Carlson related- that all of it is worthy of lampooning, and twisting to your point of view for putting on a show.
And a show it is, sophisticated for such an intimate theatre such as the Chicago Theatre, with good use of scaffolding, giant sized LED screens stage left and stage right, with lighting to add a moody punch to the whole affair.
And the core Puscifer force, backing up Agent Merkin, along with Carina Round, you have Mat Mitchell, on guitar. bass and keyboards, and of course Josh Moreau on bass, and Gunnar Olsen on drums.
The band is tight, aloof, going about their business without much visible emotion, acting as the "Men in Black" to the "Man in Black".
The themes abound, clearly obvious and visible, but done with a fans point of view, to prompt further discussion and evidentiary dialog on all things "Maynard", and can you decipher "Maynard", which apparently you can, and you can't.
Which is the whole point I guess- living in this day and age, and easy access to conspiracy theories, let alone anything "Q" related, makes you take note of the dimwitted, and write about the dimwitted.
And no one better than Maynard knows how to instinctively skewer that at his beck and call, making note of anyone in a position of elected power- "If I only had a brain", whistling like the tin man from the Wizard of Oz, and the buffoon of a senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.
So yes, there's plenty of fodder on a daily basis to chew on, especially if you're an entertainer of the level of a Maynard- a guy who knows how to perform and immerse himself in multiple characters, with a bit of modern day George Carlin thrown in for good measure.
All of it makes sense to some extent, provoking your devoted audience and fan base to essentially take a deep dive into investigating further the deciphering of all the "DaVinci Code" like antics from said wicked showman / comedian.
The setlist- covered entirely "Existential Reckoning", with plenty of fodder in Maynard's other alter character, Billy D, and all things "V is for Vagina", and "Conditions of my Parole", let alone "Money Shot".
Some seventeen songs in total, all done with no skimping, or let's say "no spam involved".
All rich, all fresh and clean.
Have to say it's not wayward with Maynard. The comedy- the theatrics- the swinging the hips like an old man movements- the downright 1950's aliens in three piece suits- all of it makes absurdist sense, for absurdist comedy, for the absurdist world we find ourselves in.
So when we get close to the time of the end of the world, and we all have to "tribe up" Mad Max style, and I'm alive and have to seek out a guy like Maynard and profess that I belong with said tribe, I've got my speech ready. It involves a modicum of comedy, along with existential gunplay, followed by a dash of wisdom with an "I don't care" kind of attitude.
That- and know how to multi- task at a moment's notice.
Let's go forward please.
Until then- embrace the absurdist comedy ever present in the day and now, with guys like Maynard, and bands like Puscifer.
Bobby Talamine - JBTV Music Television Chicago