with Keith Bownice, Turbo Tom at Mama Kin
by Valerie Smith
photo by Krista Handfield
Keith Bownice‘s music was pleasant for an opening band. They played some decent songs that reminded me of my older brother’s eight-track tape collection back in the ’70s. (He was way into Skynyrd and the Southern rock thang.) The most memorable, and strangely distracting aspect of Keith Bownice was the guitar player who looked quite a bit like AC/DC’s Angus Young. At first I thought it was simply my overactive imagination, but three of my friends mentioned the same thing!
Next up on stage was Turbo Tom who started his performance by snorting down a condom and removing it from his mouth. He followed that by swallowing it and blowing it up and out of his nose. Then he had a volunteer from the audience remove a lit bulb from a lamp and smash it so he could have a quick snack of glass shards with a little water. He pounded a huge nail into his nose and had another volunteer from the audience remove it with her teeth, a guy with a lit cigarette doused it on Tom’s tongue, he had two burly guys set a bear trap which, after a quick demonstration, he put his arm into and shouted “No broken bones!” Then he pierced his throat with a skewer and left it there while he took off his shirt and did something extremely bizarre with his stomach. After another helper from the audience removed the skewer from his neck, it was time for his final feat. He took a brick with a chain threaded through it and proceeded to hang it from his nipple rings, exclaiming “Oh, I think I’m lactating!” That about sums up Turbo Tom.
There was a bit of a wait between acts, but eventually a lone man walked up to the mic and began to speak. His words fell on deaf ears for the chant “Bentmen, Bentmen” had begun. It grew in intensity until the invasion began from the back of the room. Six foot tall demon Easter Bunnies, conjured from sugar-induced childhood nightmares, wove their way through the masses. Streams of colored string shot from their powerful bunny hands covering the awaiting crowd as they slowly made their way toward the front.
A thick fog enveloped the stage, allowing only faint glimpses of the Bentmen as projected images played over their bodies. Lights from behind them shot out like probing fingers towards the audience. The devout fans pressed towards the stage, heads bobbing to the multicolored layers of chaotic sound, while the newcomers simply stared, caught in a hypnotic trance. At any other show, a screaming guitar solo is an expected eventuality, but there’s a mesmerizing quality to it when it’s presented on a foggy, strobe-lit stage with a gang of masked, costumed guys moving around in back.
I’ve listened to the Bentmen’s Patient Zero which, to put it simply, is the most amazingly demented musical experience one can indulge in. You can’t take it all in at one sitting. You have to keep listening to it again and again. But when exposed to the whole theatrical affair that is their live show, the music becomes a programmatic underscore to their orgy of light, color, costumes, confetti, and charisma. It’s impossible to separate any particular aspect of the show without missing the whole effect. You have to simply open your mind and let yourself go.
I have to admit that trying to describe the Bentmen’s live show is like trying to explain an orgasm to a virgin. No matter what I write, it will fall short of capturing the entire experience. So just educate yourself and go see the Bentmen’s next show