Published Feb 26, 2011Austin, TX's Octopus Project had the arduous task of opening the night to a drunken crowd that was strictly there for the headliners. The four-piece, who decorated the stage in neon lighting, dressed-up amps and a screen playing psychedelic cartoons, had a difficult time getting the crowd involved. Even a simple clap-along didn't pan out. Their mix of heady, sugar-coated Atari-like electronics, pre-programmed beats and live instrumentation -- not to mention a seizure-inducing light show -- was just never quite enough to get the audience buzzing.
By the time Man or Astro-man? finally got up to play, it was clear that the packed Biltmore was saving its energy and enthusiasm for one band. Clad in orange NASA jumpsuits, the long-dormant but recently reunited Alabama four-piece took to the space-themed stage -- complete with a giant satellite -- and quickly launched into their frenetic brand of punk-infused surf rock. The crowd at the front instantly turned into a heaving mass that repeatedly spilled onto the stage, causing two security guards to rush to the front to try and keep things calm. Well, the crowd was never really tamed and the energetic acrobatics of the band -- whose Coco the Electronic Monkey Wizard at various times ended up hanging from the roof upside down, lighting his theremin on fire and eventually crowd surfing -- only stirred up the masses even more.
It was clear that Man or Astro-man? commanded a cult-like devotion from the audience, which included at least one fan in a robot costume and two more wandering around in hazmat suits. Even after a decade of inactivity, the band proved that they could a draw a feverish crowd that could match their own onstage intensity.