There are some musical acts that infuriate you more than they entertain you yet somehow you just can't manage to look away. Often times it's a matter of a gripping glimpse of initial promise followed by head-scratching mediocrity. Other times it's a flash of brilliance with a frustrating sudden unbearably insipid dreck filled follow up. For me the musical group Don't Touch Me -dMa fits somewhere in between.
When I first discovered the band a couple of years back playing at my local coffee shop I couldn't wait to see just how far they might go once they truly hit their stride. Their music was eclectic and their style uniquely their own. The lead singer -d's social awkwardness somehow seemed appealing and endearing more than it was intentionally anti-social. What the group lacked in pure musicianship they made up for in earnestness.
But after seeing Don't Touch Me -dMa's most recent show last Sunday at open mike night at the Coffee Grounds, one has to wonder if the group has given in to the simple minded cynicism that pervades too much of today's music (and society).
Granted the show was essentially a -d solo performance as the group was missing several key members including Anita the go-go tambourine playing girl, Amy Lou and her inspired concertina accompaniment, and the little red hair girl whose versions of "Crab Cakes" and "Milkshake" always are money in the bank crowd pleasers. Instead what we got was -d alone on his piano playing his version of Paul McCartney's 1992 CD Off the Ground in sequence from the first insipid title song to the closer, the schmaltzy "C'mon People" that urges us to let the future in. Deep stuff this was not. I swear things got so bad that all that was left to watch by the end of the show were a couple of creatures with an odd number of limbs between them.
One might think the performance was all some kind of joke yet -d played it all terribly matter-of-fact and proved in the process if anything that he's no Paul McCartney. Not even close.
As if things were not already insufferable enough, -d took the time in between songs to rant about his world view. He chided people for not being spiritually or intellectually curious enough, accusing the vast populace of being too wrapped up in their own day to day lives to give a hoot about what is going on around them. Maybe it would have sounded convincing if two minutes later he wasn't crooning (and crooning badly) "I saw a cat with a machine in his brain/The man who fed him said he didn't feel any pain/I'd like to see that man take out that machine/And stick it in his own brain/You know what I mean..." Um no -d, some of us really never know what you mean.
Throughout the evening -d's plucky piano playing (always one of his few redeeming qualities) seemed sloppy and unrehearsed. His usual stand up pound out the unexpected notes way of playing gave way to noodle doodling as if he wasn't sure what he was going to do next and he wasn't shy about sharing his apprehension as part of his performance. Where in the past his piano playing technique has always seemed as if it was coming from a frustrated writer-wannabe, his playing this night was as if he has been taking lessons from a big black cat who strolls up and down the keyboard with no real purpose in mind.
And to add to the insufferable performance was -d's singing. Not much to rave about to begin with for whatever reason he sang the entire night out of the side of his mouth as if he was suffering from some type of Brian Wilson numb side of the face malady.
The one redeeming performance of the night came during the encore, a version of McCartney's 1983 song "The Other Me" written 10 years before the rest of the set Don't Touch Me -dMa made us all struggle through. On this one song -d got it exactly right and sang his little heart out as if the organ was shrinking from sight. "The other me would rather be the glad one/The other me would rather play the fool/I want to be the kind of me/That doesn't let you down as a rule..." Suddenly the singer seemed engaged and false empty expression gave way to the offering of a seemingly true sentiment. As he left the stage -d removed the purple Survivor buff that he'd been wearing all show as if he really wanted to reveal even more.