The Protomen, Make-Up and Vanity Set & Magic Hammer at 12th & Porter, 8/6/10

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  • Photo: Lance Conzett

We rolled down to 12th & Porter early enough to find parking (which meant, as far as we’re concerned, we won the night) and catch Magic Hammer in the middle of their set, performing for a sea of people wearing Protomen T-shirts. Somewhere, Jeremy Piven’s character from PCU was feeling a serious disturbance in the Force. We’re still not sure what to think about the Hammer’s 8-bit power metal antics, but the fact they don’t take themselves so seriously endears them to us more. You get adolescent garbage like Dragonforce when over-the-top geek metal bands become self-aware.

Once Make-Up and Vanity Set moved the show to the floor and started spinning some electro-dance grooves, something bizarre started to happen. People at a Nashville rock show started to dance. Not only that, but Jammaster Pusti managed to inspire an honest-to-God dance-off. The crowd made a circle and everything. Shit was off the hook, if a bunch of dorky white kids dancing in a circle can indeed be off the hook. We don’t think anybody was declared a winner, but that’s because we’re all winners, right? Right. We’re constantly impressed by how good Make-Up and Vanity Set is at working the crowd. It doesn’t seem that long ago when he was barely speaking a word onstage at The End.

Then came the main event. Considering they have an entirely new lineup seemingly every time we catch them, The Protomen are a remarkably consistent live band. They cultivate a kind of energy and fan response that borders on “frothing.” Everything gets a massive reaction, from the entrance of KILLROY, who we figure is basically their Flavor Flav, to when Protoman gets stabbed with a broken keytar by Gambler. But by far the best thing to come to the band’s live show as of late is Neil O’Neil acting like a deranged carnival barker. We’ve seen Cheer Up Charlie Daniels a bunch of times, but we never thought anybody in that band could be so … creepy. And we mean that in the kindest way possible. Every time he appeared onstage, he stole the show, which ain’t easy when the show in question involves elaborate video screen art and a robot making boner jokes.

As the band’s sufficiently radical, albeit obvious, cover of Styx’s vocoder classic “Mr. Roboto” came to a close, we decided to take our leave before getting swept up into what promised to be an all-night dance party rager.

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