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Tuesday, 21 January 2014 11:50

Concert review: Man Man (with Xenia Rubinos) wails through Off Broadway, Sunday, January 19

Concert review: Man Man (with Xenia Rubinos) wails through Off Broadway, Sunday, January 19
Written by Blair Stiles

When Xenia Rubinos' album "Magic Trix" landed in my lap it felt like the most tangible show of piano and percussive prowess.

On record, Rubinos pounded her keyboard in furious, panicked plunges with her nimble fingers. She hollered and wailed with a mix of English/Spanish vocals with the emotional force of a woman scorned, or ecstatic, or in full control of her music's tropical flourishes yet completely incapable of manning her feelings.

The album's emotional arc covered a fecund musical plain that produced a spin-and-win randomness to her octaves, emotions and musical stylings. She went from sounding thrilled with a moombahton thud to pained over a shrill guitar in a matter of verses. She sang, "Bay-beee…let's go back..." on "Hair Receding" with the kind of tension that hovers over an argument you are losing with your lover. Rubinos' only defense is a weak, pleading bid to his or her most loving side.

Clad in a blood orange jumpsuit, Rubinos, with drummer Marco Buccelli in tow, delivered visceral renditions of "Magic Trix" bombastic tunes to a packed Off Broadway on Sunday night. Rubinos signed lyrics, stepped away from her microphone to scream senselessness and slapped her thigh -- which she raised every song or so a la Captain Morgan. All the while, her curls, a gathering of coiled cobalt snakelets, shook and slithered across her forehead in a dazzling display of follicle fortitude. Buccelli manned his drum kit like a WW2 gunman. He loaded up on his sticks, and hit his kit with a fury that resulted in a torrential maelstrom of machine-gun bangs.

Man Man's opener was an eyeful of heart-thumping visuals and beats that caused feet to lift off the floor. We jumped and belted with Rubinos and Buccelli -- even if we needed her to translate "Pan y Café" for us.

If my intro to Xenia Rubinos was a warm embrace, then my greeting from Man Man was a beer splashed across my head and an elbow ingrained into my spine. Both flying Stag and bruised epidermis were the result of a Man Man-induced fracas. The dance floor at Off Broadway bended under the weight of the shitfaced crowd. We stomped and shoved as our eyes delighted in the hijinks of Man Man's members. Decked out in jumpsuits printed with anatomically correct bones, Man Man snarled and howled its way into Off Broadway's musical history. The show, just south of an hour, felt like it lasted five minutes. That could be due to the amount of action there was to process.

In "Pink Wonton," lead singer/keyboardist Ryan Kattner sings, "You treated me like a feral animal"; last night, he straight up acted like one. Kattner marched around the stage in a white faux-fur pimp jacket during "Loot My Body." In the song, it's Kattner who pleads for a submissive fantasy. Live, it's Kattner who patrolled the front of the stage and touched, grabbed and took pawfuls of a man's salt and pepper curls. He looked like a rabid albino lupine as he hunted for members of the first and second row to harmlessly frisk and stare down.

My friend likened the spectacle to a "Monster Mash Cabaret." He could not have been more on point. Kattner roamed like a werewolf stricken with cabin fever during a full moon while Man Man's other members invoked theatrical playing techniques. Drummer Christopher Powell leapt up from his kit in unison with Kattner. Guitarist Bryan Murphy commanded attention from his lone corner pocket. His bellows were audible over Kattner at times. Also giving his charisma an assist was his appearance: a miniature, sopping wet version of Jon Snow of "Game of Thrones." Adam Schatz was surrounded by a small army of percussive instruments and toys yet managed to be visually stimulating behind Powell. Over the course of the night, he would venture out from behind Powell to gawk at the audience like a mammoth bird of prey.

Kattner wore a cape of patched-together fabric swatches that shined with animal prints and fandangled tribal patterns. He donned an alien mask which he occasionally took off to bop on the head of an unsuspecting chick and her boyfriend. At one point, Man Man draped black cloaks over themselves and knelt down until the audience grew loud enough that returning to their instruments was the reward.

By the end of the night, the sound of the audience was deafening. An imperious buzz flooded the room and ricocheted painfully like the sound of rocks in a blender. We chanted and caterwauled until Man Man returned to its instruments. Then we moshed.

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