It could be said that a lot of clowns grace the stage at Crescent Ballroom, but just over a year ago, the term held a little more weight when Puddles Pity Party visited for a fun night of music and, uh, you know, clowning around. Puddles himself is a sad sack, a fully costumed clown who towers at nearly seven feet tall. The artist born Mike Geier of Atlanta leads a "band" that includes his wife, Shannon Newton, as the chimp girl Monkey Zuma.
Puddles sings to pre-recorded music, using his resounding operatic voice to deliver takes on songs by popular acts ranging from Metallica to Sia. He's fun and funny as hell, and the show is a rollercoaster of emotion and chaos, the latter coming a lot from his spontaneously pulling audience members to be a part of the show, sometimes making them perform along with him.
Puddles has made the most of the time since he last hit the desert.
"It has really been an adventure," he says. "I went to England and sang at a circus. I was in Australia and saw flocks of giant bats and listened to kookaburras sing. In Australia, they call ketchup 'tomato sauce' and put it on hot pie. I went to Montreal and rescued Neil Patrick Harris from a sinking Titanic on Canadian TV. I went to Scotland and stayed there for about a month singing and dancing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival."
It wasn't all international good times, either. "In Seattle, I did some shucking and jiving with Neil Hamburger, Kate Flannery, Dana Snyder, and Paul & Storm, and Jack Black invited me to goof around at his Festival Supreme in Los Angeles."
Traveling and performing doesn't always allow a lot of time for writing and developing new material, but Puddles says that it won't be the same old show.
"It has definitely evolved since I was last in Phoenix," he says. "I always love doing new tunes. I do find that the fans want to hear songs they're familiar with me doing from the interweb."
It was one of those, his cover and video of Lorde's "Royals," that really helped collect a wider audience. That one currently has something like 45 million views.
"I try to find a balance. Sometimes the audience and I make stuff up right on the spot."
We took it as an indication that audience participation is still a big part of the Pity Party's live show, so we asked Puddles if it was the case. His answer was affirmative: "I believe that is a question for the audience to answer, but I'm hoping so."
Because covers are a big part of the Puddles song base, it's got to be hard to narrow down choices. "A song has to move me," he says. "It has to be a story or a poem. Like a good sea chanty, I like a song that really tells a story."
You don't always hear people gabbing about sea chanties, but Puddles says he is "obsessed with songs of maritime disaster."
"I will sing all seven verses of 'The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald' while bathing. Sometimes, I'll make up my own verses about the day-to-day business and antics that happen aboard a big freighter sailing on the high seas."
If you need more than just a live Puddles Pity Party experience, he recently dropped some new material, including two EPs, including a seasonal one, White Elephant Holiday.
"That one was recorded in a bunker behind a Waffle House next to some railroad tracks in Georgia," he says.