Agog. Gobsmacked. Flabbergasted. No words can accurately convey what might have been the best concert no one saw. Youngstown wonder twins Gil Mantera’s Party Dream rocked the Sunset Tavern on Thursday the 13th, leaving a small sweaty enclave of music fans breathless and bewildered as they heightened their usual manic antics to an almost ludicrous stage show.
Local opening act, The Control Keys played with the kind of enthusiasm a band would have played with to a crowd of 500. It didn’t seem to bother them in the least that hardly anyone had turned out to see them. There was a playful esprit-de-corps amongst them, enjoying their own music, enjoying the novelty of playing to such a miniscule crowd, and not appearing to be discouraged by the notion at all. After their set, band member Kyle Porter (vocals, air-synth, recording) said with a shy smile, “We would have been really awesome in 1998.” He made a point to clarify that they were not a goth/darkwave band when discussing their sound and influences: “People say they hear Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson when they hear us, which is fine, but we consider ourselves electro-pop.” Though there are elements of darkness in their sound and lyrics, as live performers each member has such a bright, distinct persona on stage that they almost don’t seem to fit the type of music they play. Vocalist Kyle Porter has an element of the seasoned, elder statesman about him in comparison to his band mates, playing with swagger and bounce that seemed to indicate that he felt quite at home onstage. Scot Porter (beats, electronics, vocals) almost looked as though he was culled from a So-Cal thrash band, and spent most of the set glazed with sweat, hopping frenetically between beat machines with a giant grin, clearly loving what was happening around him. Vocalist Ron Lipke was the dark horse of the group, dressed in all black, with a writhing, aloof rock star presence, similar to that of someone like Jim Morrison. The range on his vocals was impressive from a low and throaty guttural growl to a high-pitched Pantera scream.
Their album release party is on 5/26/10 at Nectar, and they strongly encourage all fans, old, new, and future to come check them out.
By the time Gil Mantera’s Party Dream came to the stage, the crowd had swelled from 7 to a gate-crashing 20 people. Adorned in their usual spectacularly tight regalia, leaving nothing to the imagination, the newly trim and slim brothers Mantera launched into their set with sticky, boozy aplomb. The chemistry between Gil Mantera and Ultimate Donny is to music as what that of Moe and Curly of the Three Stooges is to comedy. They often appear at odds on stage; there is always a strange sort of tension, as if a fistfight or a makeout session will break out at any moment. Ultimate Donny is a mercurial fellow, and his stage banter reflects that. He is a mystery of sorts, leaving the uninitiated wondering whether or not his comments are the result of overindulgence, chemical imbalance, or if he the most brilliant performance artist ever born. In truth, the stage theatrics are the biggest draw in seeing the Party Dream. One has no idea what to expect, because every performance is like a sweaty, hairy snowflake.
Donny kicked off the set by saying “The alligator flies both ways, yall. I wanted a good vibe here tonight, you know- some mind-blowing synth floating out into the street and shit, and some nice vocals underneath it, but I didn’t do that, because I did not come prepared” then launched into one of their tunes, accompanied by a new drummer AE Paterra (member of Zombi). Strangely enough, this new addition takes the Party Dream’s sound to a whole new level, and makes their tracks sound tighter and more polished, which the live performances appear to be the antithesis of in spirit. It also adds a new dynamic to the interplay on stage. Paterra is far more stoic than Mantera, and either plays the beleaguered band mate role to the hilt, or will not be a member of the Party Dream much longer. Mantera himself is considerably less verbose than Donny, but his presence is nonetheless formidable- he spends a great deal of it prancing and shimmying about the stage like a perverted aerobics instructor on Spanish fly. He is the sheepdog to Ultimate Donny’s lamb, nipping at his heels when his banter has gone on too long or has gone somewhere that has lost the audience. Singing all of his vocals through a vocoder and gazing out from under giant sunglasses, Mantera, not unlike a TLC T-Boz and Chili hybrid brings the sexy and cool to Donny’s Left-Eyed crazy.
In truth, describing a show like this is not unlike Rocky Dennis trying to describe colors to the blind girl in Mask, so perhaps a few highlights and quotes from the stage will serve better to illustrate the Party Dream experience:
• Ultimate Donny- “On the 3rd day of Christmas, God made sweat.” This led into a filthy 5 minute diatribe about hermit crabs, “facefucking” Cabbage Patch Kids at his sister’s apartment, and shitting on dogs.
• Ultimate Donny deciding he wants to end the show and go get tacos halfway through the set.
• Ultimate Donny curling up on stage, while Gil Mantera spoons him from behind, to which he immediately shoots up and tersely says, “I didn’t like that at all.”
• Gil Mantera throwing his sweaty tank top on Ultimate Donny’s face mid-rant about having shopping bags full of pancakes.
• Gil Mantera doing pushups on stage while half the audience danced onstage around him during the final song.
Despite their relatively short set, there was absolutely no one disappointed by the end of the night. There was a surprising lack of nudity, perhaps due to the complexity of their garb, and an unfortunate omission of their Fleetwood Mac cover of Dreams, which seems to be a trademark of their live shows, but was otherwise an unforgettable evening. There has never been a more “You had to be there” kind of stage show than that of the brothers Mantera, and despite the futility of trying to describe it, most of us attendees will probably still try and fail to do it with any kind of success. It’s still fun to try.