Published Oct 01, 2011No matter what you've heard about a John Maus performance, nothing can quite prepare you for the real thing. As he walked on stage in front of a jam-packed, sold-out Drake Hotel, the clean-cut Maus grabbed his microphone and went from Jekyll to Hyde in a matter of seconds.
His idea of greeting the onlookers was to give a blank stare and unleash a primal scream into the mic, once he'd pressed play on his iPod. While using an MP3 device as support is nothing new (see Sleigh Bells), Maus didn't play backing tracks -- he played his actual songs. And badly too, impatiently cutting off one song to introduce the next one. Needless to say, he would be an absolute shit wedding DJ.
Without supporting players, Maus had the entire stage to himself, but hardly utilized it. Instead he basically stood in one place, keeping his gaze with the audience whenever he wasn't punching himself in the head, yanking his hair or double fist-pumping the air to the arpeggiating synths.
The performance itself was full of missteps that seemed to be part of his routine. His agitated voice sang through a heavy reverb filter that made whatever words he sang mostly indecipherable. The singing was so ramshackle, off-time and muffled that it was absurd to the point of borderline comedy, especially given his erratic gestures.
Were you to walk in on a Maus performance without any knowledge of his background -- a former member of Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, an academic currently working on a PhD in philosophy at the University of Hawaii, a performance art enthusiast -- then you'd easily mistake him for a raving lunatic. But Maus's shtick was met with both adoring applause and uncontrollable chuckles, making it clear that there was hardly a soul in attendance who wasn't thoroughly entertained throughout his brief 30-minute set.