“Buttmachine” by That 1 Guy

109. Song No. 1,503: “Buttmachine” by That 1 Guy
The Moon is Disgusting, 2007

Just ’cause it’s cracked, doesn’t mean that it’s broke
Just ’cause it’s a butt, doesn’t mean it’s a joke…

Eels’ concerts, hands down, have the best opening acts, and I don’t just mean that time Nicole Atkins rocked a six-song set at World Cafe Live. This was committed to the annals of irrefutable fact not too long after a giant, shambling sad clown slumped his way from the back of the venue to the front of the stage and proceeded to pour his absolutely golden voice all over an unsuspecting audience, right on down to a cover of “My Heart Will Go On” that improved the original mega-hit with not only straight-up operatic vocals but also the Metallica-inspired breakdown it always needed. It remains the one and only time I didn’t run screaming from a clown and one of the best opening-band experiences I’ve ever had.

Years later, also in Philly, Mike Silverman’s one-man act That 1 Guy similarly blew my mind so hard that I bolted to his table right after his set to buy as many of his CDs as I could stuff into my purse and try to maintain the illusion of my cool exterior while gushing about how he just won himself a new fan, which he graciously received.

It usually takes me a few listen to start hearing the lyrics, especially if I’m introduced to them by way of their live incarnations, so I missed the preponderance of buttstuff in this classically trained musician’s oeuvre at first. But even if I hadn’t… well, for one, I’d still be delighted because the contrast of incredibly complex music and seemingly unrefined lyrics tickles me as hard as unexpected crassness unfailingly pleases my gleefully immature inner child, and also because watching Silverman perform is just as captivating as listening to his dying-star-dense masterworks of songs.

Creative types attract similar madnesses, so a lot of my friends ooze the art that animates them: It’s one of my favorite things about having a family of the heart comprising the personifications of so many different flavors of offbeat brilliance. There is something magnetic and unusual about people whose highest purpose is to be vessels for the mode of expression that chose them, and it’s unmistakeable in others once you know what it looks like. And Silverman is one of those humans who lives and breaths music.

Like, how else do you describe someone who was so unhappy with the limitations of preexisting instruments that he made not one but three of his own to approximate the sounds of his internal soundtrack? Homeboy used everything from instrumental strings to electronics to plumbing pieces to a goddamn cowboy boot to construct his own instruments and the sounds they are… not of this world, in the absolute most legendary sense of the phrase.

Especially with the pandemic rendering live music’s joy of discovery a thing temporarily of the past, friends and I have been recommending music to each other far more often and enthusiastically than before. That 1 Guy has become my favorite to tell everyone to check out, not only for the obscurity points but also for the inevitably mind-broken text message a few days later that’s just as rabidly smitten as my original suggestion. And I can’t think of a better way to close out the B songs than with one of the ones I cannot believe I just find even more reasons to love every time I hear it. It is, like so much of That 1 Guy’s equally as mandatory-listening catalog, funky and fuzzy and crackly and layered and just masterfully, strikingly and wonderfully weird.

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