Live Review: Harry and the Potters, Math the Band and Uncle Monsterface at hi-dive

Harry and the Potters, Uncle Monsterface and Math the Band Monday, July 28, 2008 hi-dive Better Than: Some weird anti-Harry Potter themed show.

When some guy came hustling past me in the parking lot headed toward the hi-dive with a baby in a stroller, I knew this show would not be like any other experience I’d ever had at 7 South Broadway. Not sure what the Wackenhut security vehicles out front were about, nor what was up with the guy being being lead away in a police van along with his personal items, all carefully placed in a plastic bag, but I guessed it had something to do with someone not taking any chances.

A couple of guys in wizard costumes opened the show, rapping somewhat lamely like they were on a children’s show. A pro-wrestling-worthy announcer informed us one of them was called MC Dumbledore. The act performed a couple songs and then promptly got off the stage to make way for Uncle Monsterface.

Lidsville was a creepy Sid & Marty Croft creation. Uncle Monsterface was as far from that as possible while also maintaining a benevolent psychotically surreal quality that seems to have been the mainstay of children’s television since the beginning. The outfit’s whole set reminded me of a more innocent, sillier, decidedly less feminist, version of Tracy & the Plastics. The members spoke to hand puppets and paper figurines projected on to a sheet behind them, and their music was sort of a mixture of electronic indie pop and “Weird” Al’s originals from the In 3D album.

Normally a guy named “Perfect Jimmy” mans the keyboards, but this time around, he was “replaced” by a large inflatable monkey -- the poor bastard would “crowd surf” at different points of the show and be discarded at will. Early in the set the group did a cover of “Like a Prayer,” and later on, got a guy to come on stage to “play” an inflatable lobster alongside two girls, who themselves were playing an inflatable guitar and bass. Shortly after that, a girl named Emily came on stage and played Super Mario Brothers, while the band performed a song, followed by an absurd piece of work near the end called “The Gary Gygax” song, which was dedicated to the recently deceased co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons. Although the band performed with great energy and enthusiasm (the whole thing, in fact, was part of the Unlimited Enthusiasm tour), but musically it was somewhat weak.

Math the Band, on the other hand, was a different story. When the act appeared on stage and did a little intro dance not unlike the Hokey Pokey, I was instantly tempted to write the group off. Before the set, however, Sarah Cass told me the band was good, and Chuck Potashner from teamAWESOME! also had good things to say about the music. Turns out, they were both right. Math was by far the best act of the evening.

The members of this Boston-based three piece -- a female keyboardist, a guy who looked like he could be a cousin to both Matthew McConaughey and Eric Halborg on guitar and vocals and a drummer possessing far-too-clever-for-this-crowd sarcasm -- played with so much energy and passion it was almost like they were a hardcore band that got bored with punk and went with fun, catchy synth pop. I’ve seen a lot of group playing music similar to this in the past, and Math the Band is easily among the very best. The trio closed with a song about REM with lyrical fragments taken from various well-known songs. The raucous melody made for a frenzied ending to the set.

Closing the night out was Harry and the Potters. Maybe I’m just not with it, but I don’t get that whole phenomenon. To me, the devotees seem to be one rung down the ladder from the average gamer. (All the same, they’re far less weird and a lot less harmful, than the wackos who think Harry Potter is some evil, Satanic thing.) Be that as it may, there’s no disputing that JK Rowling’s creation instills an impressive sense of loyalty and enthusiasm in fans.

Which brings us to Harry and the Potters, who base their material on the stories and internal mythology of Harry Potter. A year after the final novel was released, they have ample material to draw upon -- which indeed they did. Like Math the Band, these guys performed their music with a level of intensity that suggested they may also be ex-punkers.

Even so, the music was ultimately one big gimmick, however well intentioned. It was a bit like seeing the Tri Lambs perform in Revenge of the Nerds: While you couldn’t help but be caught up in the moment, if you had to listen to a whole album of that material, it’d get old after a while. Although to my tastes, the band overstayed its welcome by at least a half an hour or so. Regardless, the crowd loved it and knew the lyrics to a number of songs. And that’s all that really mattered. After all, that’s who the outfit was playing for, ultimately -- not some guy who has never even read one of the books. At the end, everyone from all the bands got back on stage for a silly rock blowout that would have taken a colder, more jaded heart than mine to not applaud.

-- Tom Murphy

Personal Bias: I love shows where people are into the music even if I’m not. Random Detail: Logan Corcoran (teamAWESOME!, Castles, The Andy Devine) got on stage during “Werewolf Fever” and played along with Math the Band’s drummer Zack. By the Way: All the bands had cool merch, had positive, uplifting attitudes and played their hearts out like not enough bands ever really do in this day and age.

This is the twenty-third in a series of thirty consecutive shows that Tom Murphy is planning on attending. His whole idea is to prove that there's cool stuff going on any night of the week in Denver, if you bother to make any effort whatsoever to find it. He suggested naming this series, "This Band Could Be Your Life," a fitting designation to be sure. Since there's already a similarly titled book, however, we opted to file these entries under Last Night's Show -- you know, to avoid being sued an all. (Sorry, Tom.)

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