Described as one of the “weirdest bands in the world,” That 1 Guy lives up to his reputation. A highly trained jazz musician, That 1 Guy – a.k.a. Mike Silverman – grew tired of the limits of traditional instrumentation, and decided to move into the realm of one-man shows with his own twist. Thus, the “Magic Pipe” was born. An amalgam of tubes and wires and buttons that looks like a cross between an oddly-constructed string instrument and some sort of drug paraphernalia, That 1 Guy’s Magic Pipe requires full-body involvement to play: Silverman stomps around, hitting buttons with his feet and elbows and turning anything he plays into a piece of jazzy, electronic performance art.
I was lucky enough to see That 1 Guy perform at Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe in Adams Morgan last night. He began the show with a few technical difficulties – with an instrument like that, you’re bound to run into some problems, particularly in a space as small as the Songbyrd stage. He was noticeably flustered, but he shrugged it off with trademark good will and a lot of duct tape. In his classic double-brimmed hat and sporting a huge beard, Silverman’s stage presence was incredible, despite a few initial flubs.
Each track from Silverman lasted far longer than his studio versions. He played for over an hour but probably only got through half a dozen tracks, stopping and starting each one several times as he paused to chat with the audience. That 1 Guy is known for his wild live performances, but has been focusing recently on his music rather than the visual aspect of his shows. This was particularly evident in last night’s set: he interspersed crowd-pleasers from his 2010 album Packs A Wallop! with more instrumental, conceptual tracks.
The second half of the show epitomized everything I love about That 1 Guy. His music is a perfect blend of the absurd and the thoughtful, turning tracks about racing whales and laser beams into ten minutes of transportive sonic noodling. He transitioned from his song about the ocean – complete with layers and layers of whale calls – to “a song about butts,” the aptly-titled “Buttmachine.”
Closing the show were two more tracks from 2007’s The Moon Is Disgusting, “Rainbow” and the album’s title track. If you’re never seen an electric musical saw played live, please rectify that immediately and watch That 1 Guy perform “Rainbow.” It’s a twenty-minute long Middle-Eastern-tinged cover of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” played on an instrument almost as unique as the Magic Pipe. After the show, Silverman spent some time selling t-shirts and interacting with his fans, despite how late the performance had gone and how tightly his tour schedule is packed.
I’ve been to a lot of really unique shows around DC and in my hometown of Austin, but That 1 Guy’s performance last night was the most truly joyful performance I’ve been able to experience. It’s clear that this is Silverman’s calling, and that love for music permeates every second of his weird, wild show as That 1 Guy.