Photo credit: Mitra Mehvar

Puscifer’s “Existential Reckoning: Live at Arcosanti” Proves That a Worldwide Pandemic Can’t Stop Rock and Roll

In the 1950s – when hillbilly and rhythm and blues combined to create the uniquely American sound of rock and roll – attending a rock performance was simple enough, almost innocently so: Prior to heading out to whatever rock and roll show was playing their local ballroom or armory, girls would put on their best pair of pedal pushers or most eye-catching poodle-skirt while the guys would take a page from the well-coifed playbook and show up in their best Ivy League suit, their crewcuts gleaming underneath a shining moon and stars. Arriving at said show – which in the early days of rock could feature as many as twenty or more acts in a three hour extravaganza – the lucky duo would plunk down their dollar fifty and head into a whole new world dedicated to blue suede shoes, pony-tails, engineer boots, cuffed blue jeans and, oh yeah, summertime blues. It was the advent of music for and dedicated to the youth of that day and brother, did it sizzle: Eddie Cochran, the Everly Brothers, Chuck Berry and the Big Bopper were the ringmasters of this new and transformative music and they got things off to a rousing start, taking their rudimentary acts and transforming the lives of scores of teens and early 20-somethings, preparing them for the much more tumultuous eras of rock on the far horizon that was the mid to late 1960s on.

 My, how times have changed; the fashionista supergroup known as Puscifer, an American as apple pie rock band founded by L.A. native Maynard James Keenan which is dedicated to “premiere improvisational hardcore” music, has come roaring out of these tumultuous times with a simple enough premise for a rock concert to take place in 2020: As a way to promote their newest album – Existential Reckoning – Puscifer landed on an October 30 live concert to be filmed in Arcosanti, Arizona. Of course, things being the way they are at the moment (i.e. not so good), the concert was live-streamed and subsequently repeated for an entire world of computer looky loo’s, of which this reporter was one of.

 This was my first such experience of taking in a complete concert courtesy of my trusty laptop and it is to the good credit of Maynard James Keenan and Puscifer bandmates Greg Edwards, Gunnar Olsen, Mat Mitchell and Carina Round that I promptly forgot that I was sitting on my living room couch staring at a tiny computer screen with a bag of Cheetos never too far away from my seeking hand. Instead, as the plaintiff vocals of Keenan and Round filled the Arizona nighttime sky, I felt transported to good ol’ Arcosanti and could almost envision that most visceral of concert-going experiences, that sense of communal telepathy as you’re crammed into a huge throng of music aficionados, the quaint smell of mohasky folding over me.

 It wasn’t all ice cold lemonade and kids doing the Stroll, however: Technology, as good as it has become in an astoundingly short period of time (Roswell…Roswell…Roswell) has yet to fully replicate the concert-going experience which, at its very heart and soul, is the sensation of actually being feet from the stage where your musical gods are performing. But, to Puscifer’s good credit, they come pretty close. During their performance of Apocalyptical and Underwhelming, the visuals joined hands along with the stellar audio to almost make this talentless hack reach for his collection of old tie dye tee-shirts, so overwhelmed was I by the art that went into the band’s performance and audio and light show. This live show has been described as an “audio-visual adventure”, and for perhaps the first time in their history of a promoter trying to sell a show, there is no hyperbole in that statement. Much of the adventure can be credited to the brilliant music that Puscifer creates (they’re one of the rare bands that sounds just as good in a live setting as they do on vinyl), specifically as it pertains to their latest album Existential Reckoning which dropped the same date as their concert in Arcosanti. The pounding rhythm of Gunnar Olsen’s drums, the sublime grace of Greg Edwards on his beautiful bass and Mat Mitchell’s Duane Eddy-like guitar picking make delicious companions to Round and Keenan. Credit should be given, too, to the use of creative lighting and the inspiring camera work which, against all logic, really serves to bring the viewer into the living and breathing world of a live rock concert.

 A fun and vibrant concert courtesy of Puscifer is not to be missed and, while I’m still not completely sold on virtual concerts (call me a traditionalist; I’m jake with that), I’ll take a page out of the ever-lovin’ Bards book (that’s Mr. Shakespeare to you and I, folks) by adding this caveat: “…’tis enough, ‘twill serve.”

About Ryan Vandergriff

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