Theatrical Rock troupe Puscifer never does anything small and never has. Everything they do feels like an event level thing in an “it’s all happening” way. In the early days of the band, it was singles and EP’s before their debut album. Then it was a Paul Frank clothing drop or a few shows. Now, even in these trying times choking the music industry, the band finds creative ways to top themselves. They just released their new album, Existential Reckoning (read our review here) and for Halloween, they shared a visually striking, possibly insane, and high-quality multi-media livestream performance, Existential Reckoning – Live at The Arcosanti in the Arizona desert.
The trailer for the event found Maynard James Keenan (Tool, a perfect circle) muses in a voiceover that he moved to the Arizona desert in 1995, not just as an escape from L.A., but because he liked the challenge of living in an unforgiving place. This adds up as the band took over the at once retro and futuristic site of The Arcosanti for the livestream: an architectural wonder surround by a landscape more akin to Tatooine in a galaxy far, far away, than America. Partnering with Danny Wimmer Presents (Sonic Temple, Aftershock, Welcome To Rockville, and more), the experts in giant rock festivals, one of a kind events, and sick multimedia installations joined forces with the surrealists of synth-rock. Together they created a spectacle of light, sound, emotion, and song. Something truly different and unique from anything we have seen in the livestream genre so far. Through the interpretation of their new album and armed with not just the staging and venue, but stunning imaging and deft camera work, the players seem to work in twenty-six dimensions, instead of three. In this way, they brought these songs more meaning than just in your headphones.
With a prologue skit of Keenan’s iconic Reverend Billy D character that dates back to Mr. Show on HBO, it was nearly all seriousness from here on out. The evolving visuals of LED screens, videos, creative executions of flaring rays and shadows where color was absent, the band visage augmented the drama of the music. In a live setting there was an ebullient joy of dancy beats, and robot sounds of keyboards (at one point almost every member of the band touched a keyboard), you could not help but tap a foot or bop around in your living room to the sounds. The album is a bit of a grower compared to their older releases, but this suits a live performance perfectly. Sparse guitars, swelling bass thumbs, and sexy percussive convos dot the tracks while MJK and Carina Round’s magical vocals make your little hairs on your arm stand up. When they harmonize with each other it’s crazy how transfixed you can become on them. They seem to sing together the way twins communicate, a certain telepathy that looks effortless. Another element, Round and Keenan and all vocalizing: , da-da-da-dats, hooting, and “woo-ing” along at different points in each song creates its own counterpoint between the main melodies and other instrumentation. It creates a sonic separation from the backdrop of the songs, adding depth.
Not consigned to be planted on one part of the stage, the entire Arcosanti layout was their playground, especially Keenan and Round who marched around the venue at different points. There was also a mysterious briefcase that kept appearing at odd times. That nugget of suspense was answered in their companion music video for “Theorem”,released the following week.
The entire performance felt thick with subtext and the best tracks on the albums felt oddly telling for life in 2020, such as “Bedlamite”, “Bullet Train to Iowa”, “UPGrade”, “Fake Affront” and more. Unlike Keenan’s other bands, the words don’t need to be sung loudly or screamed to cut through to your core. The band also cut striking figures, dressed collectively as “The Men In Black” – which has been part of the motif in the run-up to this release, expressed in videos, photoshoots, and now live. With Maynard in his wild wig and lipstick/shades combo and Round’s otherworldly pompadour, they looked as though they could get E.T. to phone home on style alone. Please zap me in the face and make me forget 2020, COVID-19, this election, and let me stay in the desert with you forever!
Live At the Arcosanti saw Puscifer and Danny Wimmer Presents reimagine what is possible with these types of events.
Buy the album here: https://puscifer.com/