LIVE: Agents, Aliens & Spam, Oh My – Puscifer at the Kodak Center 5/30/23

Maynard James Keenan’s band, Puscifer, stopped at the Kodak Center in Rochester last week. The band is on the road for their Existential Reckoning Tour: Global Probing 3.0 in support of its latest album Existential Reckoning. Before the doors, you could see many fans waiting outside, some dressed up in black suits and sunglasses and some in some well-made futuristic cosplay. This was an indicator of what could be expected from the show.

Kicking off the evening was the darkwave/synth-pop duo from Los Angeles, Night Club! Night Club was formed in 2012 by 3 Kord Scissor King (Mark Brooks) and Emily Kavanaugh and has been releasing music and touring since 2012. The band is touring to support their most current 2020 release Die Die Lullaby, but they also played some new singles. I was amazed by the big sound and vibrant energy that the duo produced onstage. With some pumping beats and haunting vocals, it didn’t take long for the crowd to get up on their feet and start dancing.

Some of the high points of the set were “Die in the Disco,” “Schizophrenic,” and the poppy and twisted “Candy Coated Suicide.” After a fantastic 30-minute set it was time to make way for the night’s headliner.

Begin Transmission: The stage darkened as fog slowly billowed out and two large screens in the back flickered like an old television set. Agent Dick Merkin (Maynard James Keenan) is coming through on the choppy screen with an infomercial about how that universal mystery meat, Spam is made which ultimately leads to a cheeky reminder to please leave your phones in your pocket or you will find out quickly how that culinary delight is made.

If you are familiar with Maynard’s other musical ventures, you may have an inkling of what was about to unfold. His stage show is known for its theatrics or what one may call, “performance art.” I would call it pure brilliance from one of alternative/indie rock’s darkest but most brilliant minds. Puscifer with Maynard James Keenan and Carina Round (vocals), Gunnar Olsen, Matt Mitchell, and John Moreau (backup instruments) take their audience on a unique visual and musical experience where everyone including the fans is part of the act.

Their current “experience” has an alien hunter theme and includes a rotation of interesting characters. The show had everything from a trio of bald agents who looked like something from Men in Black to Maynard (AKA Agent Merkin) pointing out a fan with a mullet and yelling, “Spam, Spam, Spam!” Agents swarmed the poor soul and took him backstage while the crowd cheered. Between the acts, video messages narrated by Agent Merkin covered topics such as aliens infiltrating and breeding with humans to disguise themselves, there were some pokes taken at celebrities including Fran Drescher and Mila Kunis, and thoughts on genetics and conspiracies. It was a clever way to introduce the various segments of their performance.

Some of their songs sounded better live than the studio versions. A few standouts included, “Fake Affront,” “The Humbling River,” “Vagina Mine, “and “Conditions of My Parole.” Puscifer played an incredible two-hour set. Fans didn’t want it to end. If you have not seen Puscifer, it is highly recommended. It is an experience like no other. 

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