Custom On It
Wednesday, January 9
Richard’s on Richards
Soon after filing into Richard’s, the packed house was greeted by Grand Buffet. This act consists of two MCs rapping and a Discman on stage supplying beats. Seriously: they had to bend down, select the next track, and press Play for every song. Grand Buffet proclaimed themselves “The Barenaked Ladies of Rap” (dubious bragging rights, at best), which neatly characterized the spirit of their two goofy sets. Obviously experienced and confident, they demonstrated far more skill than commercially dominant rec room rap idols the Bloodhound Gang. A kiddie sing along, “Let’s Go Find a Cat,” had the crowd responding as if in a Fred Penner flashback, and was the high point of Grand Buffet’s performance. The low points included one of the MCs repeatedly challenging some idiot on the balcony to an on-stage fight; after said idiot threw some plastic on stage. The other member, perhaps suffering from some bizarre form of OCD, not only applied deodorant mid-song, but also found time to brush his teeth onstage. Better than fighting, certainly, but nothing that I felt like watching. The other openers were Custom On It, a lightweight hard rock band from Chicago. Things took a turn towards tiresome once this group took the stage. These are guys who likely dropped out of high school band to take autoshop, then dropped out of autoshop to take a case of Pabst to the parking lot outside of the White Snake show. When I wasn’t feeling embarrassed for the singer’s postured dances with the mic stand and choreographed layer-by-layer clothing removal, I tried to guess whether or not the drummer was a session man. His work was the only redeeming part of Custom On It’s set. Unfortunately for him, people go to shows hoping to see quality bands, not drum clinics, so he couldn’t save his clients.
Of course, nobody had lined up for blocks to see Grand Buffet or Custom On It; they had lined up to see a colossal schizophrenic man named Wesley Willis. Formerly homeless, Willis now writes simple songs about celebrities, eating, and just about anything else that comes to his mind. To clarify: when I say “simple songs,” I mean “simple” in the most extreme form of the word, and “songs” in only the very loosest sense. Each of Willis’ programmed keyboard songs is exactly the same. Not just similar, but exactly identical in any way a musician could care to notice. Luckily for the crowd, his stage show is far from boring. Willis interacts with the audience well, he drinks nearly a dozen cups of sweetened milk during a single set, and his switches between fast rants and doleful bellowing make for quite a spectacle. With constant touring and a vast catalogue of releases, this spectacle is gaining Wesley Willis – and Alternative Tentacles Records – a lot of money, and it also seems to make Willis quite cheerful on stage. As long as people are willing to pay money for a friendly and legal equivalent to a freakshow (while
accomplished artists play to nearly-empty houses), he will be able to make a living this way. Although I wish Wesley Willis the best of luck in winning them over, I won’t be one of the suckers.