Saturday, September 20, 2008

Party Pooper: An Intimate Evening with The Emotron

I wrote this months ago for a zine I don't think is ever going to exist:

I was really excited for the show at 141 Moreland that The Emotron was playing. But I didn’t know The Emotron was playing. My friend Sandra sent me the Myspace for this band called The Measure[SA]. The hooks in the songs and the unselfconscious yearning in Lauren Measure’s voice enchanted me. I marked the day they were to play on my calendar. I couldn’t wait.
I rounded up a couple of friends and headed down to the house show. When we arrived there was barely room to stand on the porch, but we found out The Measure[SA] wasn’t playing. The Measure[SA] had some extenuating tragedy and so it was just The Emotron and some other guys.
There was no time for disappointment, however, as about four people in turn gleefully told me the tale of what happened last time The Emotron played at 141 Moreland. According to legend, a woman, unconnected to The Emotron and anyone who told me the story, joined in the performance by trying to suck his dick while he was singing. So he peed on her. This was an easy distance to travel for both of them because he was already naked. I guessed the guy didn’t like being upstaged.
That’s approaching GG Allin levels of fucked up, I thought, but it’s nowhere near that level of premeditation. How could it be? And, surely, no such thing would happen this time. I’d be a horrible person to say I was sorry I missed it last time and I wasn’t sure if I was or not. Or if I would have shown up if I knew that would be the scene.
When something like that is premeditated, you didn’t miss anything, I promise. But when it’s unplanned you at least have something to think about that you didn’t bargain for. It’s a strange kind of gift — unexpected horror during a concert — and one I would feel strange about seeking out. But, you see, I was already there.
I saw a band that specialized in providing thoroughly expected horror one time. They played in an art gallery next to a tattoo parlor. The art gallery was showing some really hackneyed bondage photos. The band’s name was some play on the word “fuck” and there was urine and blood and nudity and drums and guitar. The music was a stale punk-rock backdrop for the front man bashing himself in the head with the mic until he bled copiously. I remember feeling tired. It was really late but I felt like seeing the whole thing since I had gone down there to check it out. And I had gone to be certain that I wasn't missing anything. The rest of the audience seemed kind of into it.
I wonder how many bands out there are still rehashing that self-mutilation for fun and profit shtick. It takes a special person to do something like that all the time but it also loses something (everything?) when you realize they do it all the time. But something about The Emotron puts him in a different class. And his show couldn't have felt more different from The Whatever-Fucks's show.
The Emotron’s deal could be construed as self-humiliation. Or, maybe, audience humiliation — depending on what the audience is expecting. Or, just maybe, this is who he is and what he does and the audience's expectations aren't really a consideration. I'd like to imagine that.
I was expecting entertainment. One of the guys who helped put on shows and lived there at the time specifically promised, if nothing else, I’d be entertained.
The Emotron, an ethereally spindly kid with an angelic face, started singing karaoke style over something that sounded like video game music from the '80s. The song employed only the crudest, purest building blocks of pop melody. He wore a black wig and a cowboy outfit and sung his heart out about the fact that people his age bought houses and got married. Presumably, he didn’t. But you got the feeling he didn’t really want to do those things either.
So I got my hooks and my (vague) yearning. Plus, The Emotron mostly seemed to yearn for the '90s, something I can identify with. That’s all the entertainment I’ll ever ask for right there. But then he threw in costume changes and all this violent lurching. With each song he peeled away another layer of clothes, taking on a new persona with each costume he revealed. That was almost more entertainment than I can handle. One grand visual revelation was his actual hair, which was shaven to look like he had a dad-style receding hairline. If I recall correctly, he also has an Izod alligator tattooed on his breast.
No tease, The Emotron wound up in a skimpy thong. It was like a bachelorette party, except mostly the boys were all up in his shit. They lurched and sang along with him until it felt like the room was rocking. There was some spitting.
He upped the ante again when he used some sort of foamy hair care product as fuel to light his crotch on fire. He repeated the stunt after dispensing with his thong. All of this happened very quickly and in an atmosphere of sweaty, beery frenzy, yet it stayed just inside the lurid-but-cozy realm of a sideshow. That is where The Emotron revealed himself to be an showman of vaudevillian caliber. Because I don’t think many of us saw it coming when he took a shit on a towel.
While the electronic calliope played on, The Emotron lay on his back and held his narrow butt cheeks apart to expel a tidy log onto its receiving blanket. With a stage illusionist’s speed he folded the towel and whisked it out of sight. The fragrance lingered but, other than that, he erased every sign of the deed with military precision — a surgical strike on most, if not all, human and animal social taboos and all applicable health codes. It seems that The Emotron needs no uninvited volunteers from the audience to do this sort of thing. Some people left. Even the dudes who were drinking beer out of his mouth calmed down a little.
This was something more than entertainment or other than entertainment. Or art even, though it did make me think. And it wasn't show business in the normal sense of the word either. Everything is context. This guy pooped on the floor at a punk show at his friend’s house. And he's been doing this sort of thing for awhile.
I have a feeling this is The Emotron’s real life. There isn't too much punk like that these days. I'm not even totally sure if there ever was. I guess that's why I liked the show even though I had a pretty good idea of what I was in for and, by all accounts, he has peed on strangers who may or may not have been mentally competent at the time.
In closing, I don’t know what it would say about art or pop music or public defecation if The Emotron ever got booked for the Whitney Biennial; but, after watching his YouTube videos, I can say The Emotron definitely should have his own kids show. He teaches vocabulary words and projectile vomits Yoo-Hoo at will. That would be a huge hit with the little guys. Also, Kids love poop jokes more than anyone.