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Pfeffer argues that the typical bar setting often fails to facilitate unique performances and doesn't have the atmosphere to enable young people to let their guard down. "You never feel at home at that kind of place," he says.
That hasn't stopped him from trying, however: Tempe Starving Artist has hosted numerous shows at Tempe watering hole Long Wong's, and early in the band's existence, Playboy Manbaby was offered one of the bar's signature month-long residencies during which the headliner gets free rein over a consecutive stretch of Saturdays.
Pfeffer says the band showed up on its first week to a room half-full of strangers and middle-aged regulars. "I got mad," he says. Between songs, he called Long Wong's a glorified Chili's, pointed out people in the bar, and said an individual "fuck you" to each one. The outburst might have been inspired by the GG Allin documentary he watched that day, he says. The band returned the next week to a packed room and a forgiving shrug from management.
The band has returned to Long Wong's for a weekly residency this month, playing material from a forthcoming EP, as well as varying each show with performances conceptualized on the lowest rungs of bad television: home shopping, pyramid schemes, televangelists. Flimflam soliloquies and flying food should be expected.
TV preachers, in particular, struck Pfeffer as inspiration for his performances, and he began obsessively researching them. "I thought, 'This guy is like James Brown and Jerry Lee Lewis, getting this reaction without a drum set or anything,'" he says.
Over-the-top performances, audience confrontation — some might call it contrived or forced, Pfeffer says, but he doesn't think of gimmickry as a four-letter word. "I love the idea of embracing that," he says. "My favorite thing is not open up shows with the typical, 'Thank you very much, we're happy to be here.'"
There's no real antagonism, anyway. Kids keep showing up. Some showgoing folks simply don't possess an appreciation for getting pelted with microwaved pizza sleeves. "Fuck you," they might say, wiping marinara lava from their collars. "Not cool."