Beardyman: live in concert (pt. 2)

beardyman-live

Dear Matt:

What do you mean I couldn’t get anybody else to go see Magma with me? I’ve got tons of friends who like Magma! Scads, even! I wish you could meet them, but they all live in Canada. Wait…

Beardyman was fun. Really, it was a great show and I had a good time. But, dear god I am a walking cadaver today. As you’ll no doubt be acutely aware yourself, the concert ended after 1 AM — on a Wednesday night. I am writing this in stolen moments during coffee/lunch breaks, animated only by a truly monstrous amount of caffeine. Be informed that my present exhaustion, and the fact that I am a young/old man who Just Cannot Handle This Kind of Thing, is probably colouring my recollections of the concert.

Okay.

Let me start by enthusing about the Beardytron 5000. This contraption is every musician’s dream. It’s what Frank Zappa thought he’d found when he discovered the Synclavier. “It’s my nightmare,” said Beardyman last night, “but it’s also set me free.”

That’s a familiar sentiment to anybody who has ever played an instrument. I remember the frustration from my years as a trumpet student: I knew how I wanted the music on the page in front of me to sound, but the tool at my disposal was a difficult, primitive piece of 19th-century technology — basically, a metal tube that you make fart noises into.

The metaphor I use to explain this sometimes is that playing an instrument is like paying rent. Your rent payment is the thing that allows you to continue living in your apartment. But, it can also be the obstacle that prevents you from continuing to live in your apartment. Likewise, instruments are the things that allow you to make music, but they’re simultaneously the thing that comes between your musical vision and the actual sound.

When Beardyman says that the Beardytron has set him free, he means rent-free. In the context of my metaphor. God, I’m tired.

But, let’s focus for a second on the first part of Beardyman’s explanation: “It’s my nightmare.” He said that because for all it’s awesomeness, the Beardytron is still a ludicrous, cobbled-together Rube Goldberg machine (with a name straight out of Calvin and Hobbes) that sometimes does not work.

Last night, there were at least two instances where the Beardytron was misbehaving sufficiently for its maker to comment on it. They may have been my favourite parts of the night, because those moments emphasized the extent to which Beardyman is a musical Doc Brown: undoubtedly a genius, but an incredibly silly one whose unlikely inventions sometimes blow up in his face.

That’s what makes Beardyman fun — not just that he’s a fantastic musician (good lord, can this man beatbox), but that he’s willing to go to ridiculous lengths to get all those beats out of his head and into the world.

All the same, there were moments where this concert got tiresome for me. As you know, my attitude towards dancing is somewhat along the lines of Taber, Alberta. So, I spent the concert standing with the (reassuringly large) contingent of people who’d rather just listen.

Occasionally, I found myself thinking that I was going about this all wrong. Dance music is sometimes of only limited interest to people standing still. But equally often, I would look down at that writhing horde, dancing to a beat constructed from Beardyman’s ramblings about Bryan Adams and Celine Dion killing the Queen, and think: “What are you even doing? What is this music even for?”

And then I stopped thinking, and I felt just fine.

—Matthew

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