RSVP HERE: Safer Plays Our Wicked Lady+ MORE

Welcome to our weekly show recommendation column RSVP HERE – your source for the best NYC shows and interviews with some of our favorite local live bands.

photo by Kevin Condon

My first impression of Mattie Safer, bassist/frontman of the new disco-punk project Safer, is that he has a much calmer presence than you would expect from someone who has been living and working as a musician in NYC for 20 years. Along with pursuing his solo project, he’s the bassist and singer in Poolside (who recently toured with Kasey Musgraves), and was a pivotal member of the The Rapture from 1999-2009, in which he played bass and shared vocal duties with founding member Luke Jenner. Safer released debut EP Sleepless Nights earlier this year and their latest single “Countercultural Savior” came out last month. He will be celebrating his birthday on the rooftop of Our Wicked Lady on Wednesday, December 11th with The Wants, Godcaster and Extra Special, and we got to chat with him about what he would want to hear on his ideal birthday party playlist, craziest moment on tour and what’s next for him in 2020…

AF: Who are your favorite bassists? What are your favorite dance moves? Favorite style of hat?

MS: Favorite bass players are James Jamerson, Verdine White, Tina Weymouth, Robbie Shakespeare, and Deborah Scroggins. Favorite dance move, I keep it to a simple two step for the most part, but if could do the Harlem Shake or had a sturdy milly rock I would definitely break them out. With hats it’s really the bigger the better. Why stop at ten gallons?

AF: What’s been your craziest moment on stage? Craziest moment on tour this year?

MS: I mean, there have been amps that blew up and stage invasions, but the craziest thing that happened to me on stage happened this year, playing at a festival with Poolside in Mexico City. We finished “Harvest Moon” and the crowd just kept cheering and getting louder, and we let it run for couple of minutes, not really sure of what to do, but it wasn’t letting up and we had one more song to play so Vito just started it up. It was an incredibly touching moment, to feel that kind of connection and joy with a crowd of ten thousand plus people. Transformative.

AF: Someone throws you a surprise party — what’s on the playlist?

MS: I want to hear some Earth, Wind & Fire, some Marvin Gaye, Cymande, Janet Jackson, SWV, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Diana Ross, Chaka Khan… Basically a lot of things that make me want to put my hands up in the air and sing along like a diva. Oh, and who doesn’t love the B-52s?

AF: What’s the saddest disco song you know?

MS: The Donna Summer version of “MacArthur Park”.

AF: What are your plans for Safer and any other projects in the next decade? Lastly, if you could choose any brand of coffee can as an instrument, what would it be?

MS: There is a finished Safer album that is looking for a home. I just want to keep making music, performing and connecting with audiences. More touring – there’s still a lot of places I haven’t been, and a lot of cool cities that have changed a lot since I was last in them. As far as coffee cans go, some people like Café Bustelo, but I really feel like the resonance on a Chock full o’Nuts can is something magical that deserves more shine and attention.

RSVP HERE for The Wants, Godcaster, Safer, & Extra Special @ Our Wicked Lady. 21+ / $10

More great shows this week:

12/6 Twin Peaks, Lala Lala, OHMME @ Webster Hall. 16+ $25 RSVP HERE.

12/6 Pet Rescue 6th Anniversary with Shelter Dogs, Desert Sharks, Venus Twins, Colin Leeds @ Pet Rescue. RSVP HERE

12/7 Lez Zeppelin @ Gramercy Theatre. 16+ / $20-$59 RSVP HERE

12/7 Lightning Bolt, USAISAMONSTER, Animental, Baby; Baby @ Pioneer Works. $20 RSVP HERE

12/7 Jelly Kelly, Whiner, Cindy Cane, Pink Mexico @ Trans Pecos. All Ages / $10 RSVP HERE

12/8 Oceanator, Calyx, Frog @ Alphaville. 21+ / $11 RSVP HERE

12/9 Bass Drum of Death, Brion Starr @ The Broadway. 21+ $15 RSVP HERE

12/10 Battles, Guerrilla Toss @ Music Hall of Williamsburg. 18+ / $25 RSVP HERE

12/12 GRLwood @ Alphaville. 18+ / $10 RSVP HERE

12/12 The Nude Party, Native Sun, Dropper @ Sultan Room. 21+ $20 RSVP HERE

LIVE REVIEW: Man Man @ Brooklyn Bowl

Honus Honus singing onstage in an orange blazer.

Man Man’s tech rider must read like a sideshow’s inventory.

  • 6 sparkly purple capes
  • 5 bouquets of paper roses
  • 2 black boxing gloves
  • 4 sets of keys
  • 1 human skeleton (authenticity optional)
  • 2 white fur coats
  • 1 taxidermied deer head
  • 24 jumbo feathers, red
  • An assortment of hats
  • 1 signing plastic owl

That all or any of this could be incorporated into a performance without making it stink of student theater would be a minor miracle. Fortunately, Honus Honus and his band of merry pranksters are miracle men. It’s been four years since Man Man played New York, and six since they released an album, 2013’s On Oni Pond. In the meantime, it seems they’ve done nothing but rehearse, write new music (they released the two-song single “Bleach” earlier this year), and perfect a stage show fit for a traveling circus cult.

Man Man played a generous 90-minute set at Brooklyn Bowl Tuesday night, but before the six-piece took to the stage, opening act GRLwood threatened to steal the show. The rowdy two-piece from Louisville, Kentucky peddle what they call “SCREAM-POP,” summoning a roar with only drums, guitar, and vocals. Singer/guitarist Reg Forester has a shriek that could shred paper, and the wit to match. Forester and percussionist Karen Ledford gave brief, droll introductions to their songs, which included “I Hate My Mom,” “Wet,” “Bisexual,” “Nice Guy,” and “I’m Yer Dad.” The latter two tracks were the best, addressing abusive men of different stripes (overtly machismo vs. inconspicuous predators) with incisive humor. Both songs included improvised rants about everything from pizza rolls to Facebook stalking that are sadly absent from GRLwood’s 2018 LP Daddy.

Aside from their infectious energy and sly quips, one of the most intriguing things about GRLwood was Forester’s double life as a singer; one minute, she’d be tearing her vocal chords to meat scraps, and the next, piercing the ceiling with a pristine falsetto that inched toward the whistle register. You can’t help but wonder if this self-described “Kentucky fried queerdo” has a secret history singing  in church choirs.

Forester might’ve sang like an angel, but Man Man mastermind Honus Honus commanded the audience like the messiah himself—or at least a convincing impostor. Before Man Man descended onto the stage from Brooklyn Bowl’s lofted greenroom, a purple-caped saxophone player led the crowd through a group exercise designed to rid us of our inhibitions and emotional baggage. Then he coaxed his bandmates down with a blow on his horn. 

The rest unfurled like a trapeze act. No one stayed in the same place for very long, except for the drummer, who was burning more calories seated than most expend on the treadmill. He was also the only band member with a clear job description. The others were a dizzying collection of multi-instrumentalists; the saxophonist switched to what looked like an electric clarinet, the xylophone player put down his mallets to jump through a guitar strap, which was held out by the guitarist as he made his way to play keyboard. There were maracas, and melodicas, a double guitar, and a trumpet—and those were just the recognizable instruments. 

Instead of the typical banter between songs, Man Man opted for endless theatrics: shaking clusters of keys on “The Ballad of Butter Beans;” wearing a mask of Shia LeBeouf; holding a fur-coated skeleton in the air before setting it out to crowd surf during “Loot My Body.” Honus Honus has perfected the art of ritualistic performance, sprinkling holy water on the audience, and brandishing a deer head above us like Rafiki holding Simba atop pride rock in The Lion King. He had us singing back up and baaing like sheep, and I can’t remember a time I’ve been so willing to participate.

After a brief absence, Man Man returned to the stage for a three-song encore. The sax player once again cajoled them with his instrument, simulating the lure of a snake charmer. They closed the night with an extended version of “Whalebones,” the final track on 2008’s Rabbit Habits. As the ragtime nocturne slinked along, the band left the stage one by one, while the crowd and remaining members sang the song’s unanswerable coda: “Who are we to love at all?”