Long before you arrive at a Not Blood, Paint show the rumours reach you. They are music, they are spectacle, they are hit ’n run theater, car crash club night, they are a disorientating re-imagining of what four men, five coats of make-up and accomplished musicality can do with a six by ten space.
Once Abe Lincoln showed up to assassinate an impostor Lincoln on stage, there was a duel, it was 1865. At Bizcon 2009, posing as businessmen sprinkling the secret to their success, the band were removed from the stage and cussed-out by an irate venue owner, suspicious that they weren’t really a band.
And it can be confusing, casual observers leave tonight not sure what just happened, some feeling like NBP have been inside their heads moving around the furniture, others wondering aloud: “have I just been punk’d?”
Tonight begins with sacramental wine, occult chanting and a swelling audience. Before long we are guided on laundromat flirtations, pantyhose washing one-liners, we get a how-to on histrionic four-part harmonies, witty interplay and languorous bass-lines and that’s just in “Watch Your Mouth”.
Beyond the immersive physical theater, beyond the site-specific improv and pageantry NBP sound as much post-punk as post-prog, as much pastiche as parody, they are a guided tour through a minefield of ambitious, dynamic melodies and assorted guilty pleasures. Not since the Horrors pillaged krautrock and post-punk has a band’s Vinyl collection been a subject of such insatiable scrutiny.
Tonight there is no need to preface your secret love of King Crimson’s “House of the Crimson King” with qualifiers, tonight you need not defend your “Mr Blue Sky” ringtone to indignant friends, tonight even Toto’s ‘Africa’ is welcome. Tonight is post-irony, let the chips fall where they may.
Following a directive from the band the NBP faithful, the so-called Not Fans, Painters or Paintbuckets, dance their asses off in glam, in glitter, in various metallics, in fur, in jewels, face-paint and masks. Rumor has it that a Bomb Squad producer is here tonight as a precursor to what one can only imagine would be a show-stopping future recording.
Somehow, behind the costuming, the breathtaking four part harmonies, beyond lead vocalists Joe Stratton and George Frye’s assured stage manner, the band manage to share the dynamic time-changes and dueling harmonies of the Dirty Projectors, the spastic inventiveness of neo-prog acts Yeasayer and Of Montreal, and the bombastic histrionics of MUSE or Queen all without falling into knowing clever-clever Pitchfork revisionism.