Man-Cat's CD Release Party a Celebration of Phoenix's Musical Fringe

Phoenix music seems to breed more weird acts than American Horror Story: Freak show, and the Trunk Space very often acts as its circus tent.

Things were odd at the Trunk Space for Man-Cat's album release from the very beginning. Protesters arrived at the venue early and set up life-size cardboard cutouts of people holding signs with phrases like "Man-Cat Murders," and "Protect Your Pop Idols." Others wore complimentary "Stop Man-Cat" T-shirts and held up signs given to them.

See also: At Pizza Underground Show, It's Clear Phoenix Music Does Weird Better

Inside the venue, the self-proclaimed "pop terrorists" set up TVs all over the stage, which were on and showing static during all three opening acts. Andrew Phipps and his surf-a-delic six-piece Pro Teens opened the evening, a band whose Facebook page describes them as "like Degrassi but in bad form," may have a funny persona on the Internet, but their live show schedule is pretty serious. Even with more than a dozen bands represented by the six members, Pro Teens have found a way to make it all over the Valley every week, playing at venues ranging from Crescent Ballroom to the Yucca Tap Room and even the occasional house party. The reason they get around so much: They're really good.

Phipps gathered an extremely talented group of musicians to play with him, including the incomparable Parker brothers Zach and Isaac, and the sound they make is super-upbeat and poppy while surfy and psychedelic. They are a really fun band that translates very well to playing with a variety of different acts.

Pro Teens' style of dream-pop music is weird, but the second band up Boss Frog takes it a few steps further. Their music is an amalgamation of punk, pop, funk, jazz, and rock 'n' roll, and frontman Jack Bennett is one of the best in town. He is an uninhibited dancing machine on stage who surrounds himself with folks like eccentric sax player Ricky Smash and hilarious bass player Cody Inglis. Smash is just always one of the strangest-dressed people on stage, while Inglis' banter with Bennett is difficult to explain but totally entertaining.

Bennett announced to the crowd that he was happy to be a part of the lineup, which he thought was one of the best assembled in recent memory. Scattered throughout the packed venue were local musicians like Jason Kron, Space Alien Donald, Ryan Avery, Aaron Ponzo, and even Evan Bisbee of Roar, who recently suffered a shattered pelvis in a car wreck but stood with eyes affixed on the stage as the show unfolded.

Treasure MammaL played third, and they didn't bother with the stage at all, opting to have drummer Jeff Wrong set his kit up right in the middle of the floor. The band was without Jef Wright, who is on tour with Minibosses as well as dancer A. Claire Slattery, but that didn't really affect the show that much because Treasure MammaL Frontman Abe Gil could do a set accapella in gym shorts and a T-shirt and make it entertaining. With one drummer, three backup dancers, and a dancing Santa Claus, T-Mamz was ready to party.

This is quite possibly the only time in history that a band's set started with "My Heart Will Go On" by Celine Dion and closed with "Amber Is the Color" by 311 yet the entire crowd remained satisfied and smiling after the music ended. Besides everything about their set, the real highlight was the enormous human tunnel that Abe had the fans create and which stretched out the door and around the parking lot.

Treasure MammaL is a hard act to follow, but Man-Cat bravely pushed on, beginning its set with an announcement by a masked man that the set would not be happening. After the announcement a propaganda video started detailing how bad Man-Cat is for the music and the world at large. The video proclaimed "Sampling is not art; it is a crime. Real musicianship has six strings and a wicked solo." It also featured a figure very similar to the one used by hacker group Anonymous talking about why Man-Cat must be stopped.

By the end of the video, the three members of Man-Cat had crept into the building and through the crowd and were headed for the stage. The most noticeable thing about their set from the beginning was that they were in dire need of a drummer. Following T-Mamz is a hard enough prospect, but doing it sans drums is damn near impossible. Man-Cat did a valiant job keeping it weird and entertaining, just something about a guy in a cat mask singing at you, just can't look away.

Critics Notebook:

Friday Night: Man-Cat album release with Pro Teens, Boss Frog, and Treasure MammaL at Trunk Space

Overheard in the Crowd: "Hey, look at them beard-kissing," said a kid in front of me while Gil and backup dancer Roddy Nikpour shared what can only be described as a "beard kiss."

Random Notebook Dump: Weird seems to come way more naturally to the weirdies in Phoenix. Perhaps it's a mixture of the heat and pollution in the air, or maybe it's this weird everywhere, and you just have to dig deep to find it?

Correction: This article originally published with an incorrect byline.

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