Saturday To-Do: Blue Man Group (plus Q&A) | Rock Candy

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Saturday To-Do: Blue Man Group (plus Q&A)

Posted By on Sat, Apr 12, 2008 at 1:39 PM

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8 p.m., Alltel Arena. $45-$75.

In 1988, three catering employees appeared on the streets of New York City in identical regalia performing for passersby and staging unusual experimental theater and underground cabarets. Fast-forward 20 years and you have the international phenomenon known as Blue Man Group, a multimedia rock 'n' roll experience centered around three homologues, creatures approximating real male humans, static in appearance, earless, with bright blue heads and nondescript utilitarian clothing, who command and instruct thousands of people in the tried-and-true art of achieving megastardom. This is accomplished primarily by demonstrating moves and antics prescribed in its Rock Concert Instruction manual. Rooted in tribal percussion, BMG is backed by a bulletproof band performing mind-bending arrangements against a psychedelic neon backdrop of colors and self-invented instruments. Expect plenty of audience participation, odd props, sophisticated lighting and a humorous, energetic and thought-provoking satire on modernity when the BMG returns to Alltel Arena

—Paul Peterson

Q: Your touring schedule is pretty rigorous. Days off are few and far between. Later next month you’ve got a 10-show run in Paris.

A: Yes it is. We usually do about 10 shows in 11 days. Europe’s next. We’ll do about two weeks there after that we’ll travel around Europe for a week we’re going to Brussels then we go to Korea for two weeks

Q:  For someone who saw your Little Rock show 1 1/2 years ago, what can a returning fan can anticipate for the 2.1 gig?

A: There’ll be some elements of the show that are the same. It’s a continually evolving thing. We’re super process-oriented. There’s never really a result. Even tonight, you’ll never see the same show twice but at the same time there’ll be stuff people who are really big fans will appreciate. There’s stuff we bring back.

Q: So this could be seen as a tour to recruit the uninitiated?

A: Yeah, totally, exactly. That’s definitely the objective.

Q: Talk about the Megastar band. They’re obviously extremely tight.

A: Yeah, man, they’re some of the most skilled instrumentalists and singers working out there today. They’re an amazing, amazing band. Very advanced.

Q: Any returning musicians or an updated crew?

A: Yeah, everybody’s back. We have one new, let’s see, we have one new guitar player. Wait. When are we back in Arkansas?

Q: April 12.

A: We’ll have a new percussionist, Ian Pei, who’ll be joining us. He was the original drummer for BMG when the show first started back in the 1990. Ours had to go back and cover for the NY theater drummer who just had another baby.

Q: You guys have a lot of theater shows running simultaneously in other cities. One of my coworkers caught the show in Vegas. She was curious as to how you can translate the theater experience to the touring rock show.

A. Well, they’re two totally different things. The theatrical show is a version of the original, which run in Orlando, Chicago, Vegas, New York, Boston, Berlin and Tokyo. Each one has subtle differences and major ones, based on the city and based on the space. But the touring show, the arena show, is a totally different show altogether. We try to take the theatrical element and put it in an arena. It’s been a pretty crazy experience. The story of the show, one of the stories of the show is that the BM character gets his hands on a rock concert instruction manual and the objective of the manual is to help you create the perfect rock concert experience.

Q: As in how to perform specific moves?

A: Yes, and I think the highest number is 237 different moves. What we’re doing is trying to make fun of some of the clichéd elements of the arena rock show, and at the same time, putting on a show that totally rocks because the band is just totally incredible.

Q: The BM organization extends an open invitation for auditioning musicians. When auditioning, are there common parallels on the questionnaire / resume that you’d look for in a guitarist/ drummer or bassist/drummer? I noticed on the resume submission to cite influences, 10 albums you’d want if stranded on an island. Pretty outside the box.

A: Yeah, we’re always looking to expand. Welcome any and all submissions.

Q: What are a couple of albums you’d want to have on hand if you were stranded?

A: That’s a tough one. Radiohead’s “Amnesiac”. Midlake? Ever heard of Midlake? They’re like a Canadian indie group. Another one I’d have to have is Iggy and the Stooges “Raw Power.” That would be one. I’d have to have Kiss “Alive I.” It’s the only really good one, I think. Another one I think would be “Shalack in Action Park.”

 Q: Much of your show seems to gravitate on the tribal percussion. What percussive roots to each of you bring to the table? What are some similarities or differences?

A: For me it’s the theater angle because that’s where my training’s from. I was always more of a vaudeville performer than I ever was a musician. I started playing the drums, teaching myself and practicing about six months before auditioning for the show, when I was still in graduate school. I’d burn the midnight oil and stay in the studio super late.

Q: What were you studying in grad school?

A: Acting. And I would just stay at the studio after everybody left and just crash there, stay up as late as I could and drum on a pillow.

Q: Any negotiating over who gets the backpack tubulum? (Tubulum: Pronounced "tube-you-lum," this is similar to the PVC Instrument, but is struck with sticks rather than paddles and its notes are primarily in the bass range. Backpack tubulum: A similar but portable device that allows Blue Man Group to move around and launch rockets while playing).

A: Everybody has assigned roles, but we switch around. We go by BM 1, 2 and 3. Those instruments are played by 2 and 3, so whoever’s 2 or 3 that night gets to play them. We have a scheduled to who’s playing what on certain nights.

Q: How often does it change?

A: It changes a lot, pretty much night to night, because everybody plays multiple parts. Sometimes during the show it can change, if we want to mess with each other, we’ll position ourselves so that change is inevitable, if you know what I mean. You just stand in another guy’s spot, give him a look that says, “Hey guy, I’m taking your part.”

Q: Where does the line get drawn separating the theatrical from the rock show?

A: This show, because it’s part of a Megastar tour, is very music-heavy. Since it’s a rock show, the emphasis is on the music. There’s a lot of comedy, too, but the emphasis is on the rock element. With the theatrical show, it’s the opposite. The focus is on the vignettes, the storyline. This show is more thematic and it’s also set up like a rock set.
You’re a drummer too, right? But make sure you come out to the show. We have an amazing drummer and two percussionists, and they’re so tight it’s unbelievable. It’s like one drummer with six arms.

Q: That I’d like to see.



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