I believe the radio personality said that it was “currently 10° in the Cincinnati area” as I got out of my car, stripped off my jacket, scarf, and gloves, grabbed my gear, and hoofed it three blocks to The Southgate House Revival. On this unseasonably cold January evening, I was about to see one of my favorite bands, playing in one of my favorite venues. I had been looking forward to my first shoot of the new year and was excited that it was going to be Man Man.
I hadn’t seen Man Man live since they were promoting their second album—what was that? Three albums ago? Seven and a half years ago? Man. It was at the Lite Bright Test, an indie music and film festival that took over the old Southgate House for three nights in July. I was already a fan of their second album, Six Demon Bag, but I wasn’t prepared for their raucous, high energy set. It was magical, and I was in heaven.
But that warm Summer evening was a long time ago, artists evolve, and there has been a lot of turn-over in the band. I was really curious to see how they had faired over the years.
In my excitement, I arrived at the Southgate House Revival very early, so I did what any good photographer would do: I settled in, grabbed a beer, and double-checked my gear. All cards formatted? Check. All batteries charged? Check. All glass clean and bright? Check. All the while I was watching people slowly roll into the Sanctuary. I was starting to worry that the this recent stretch of bad weather was going to keep everyone away. I had heard that ticket pre-sales were strong, but it wasn't looking good.
By the time Xenia Rubinos took the stage the audience had grown to a fair number, but the large room wasn’t feeling nearly cozy enough for such a cold night. Once Xenia Rubinos started singing, I forgot all about the awful weather. Her robust voice and aggressive keyboard playing, paired up with her band-mate, Marco Buccelli’s powerful, but precise drumming, immediately throttled me into attention. Their sharp performance felt more choreographed than composed, and the music they produced was rich and bold. I felt very lucky to witness this captivating spectacle.
I was so entranced that I hardly noticed that the room had filled during their set.
Man Man took the stage with 100% of the gusto I was hoping for. Bounding on stage in matching skeleton costumes, they pounced on their instruments with ferocious vigor, and opened the set with a wild abandon. Beautiful, chaotic music.
I was so carried away with their high-energy performance, and my own excitement at seeing one of my favorite groups, that it took awhile for me to realize that the band seemed much smaller than I remembered. I can’t remember exactly how many people filled the stage the first time I saw them perform (maybe seven?), but this line-up certainly felt much lighter. Fortunately they didn’t sound lighter. Their songs were fast, layered, rich, and loud, and when Xenia Rubinos joined them on stage, I couldn’t have been happier.
As I was working my way around the stage earlier in the set, I noticed Xenia and Marco watching the show from the side. Actually Xenia was smiling, dancing, and singing, and they both seemed to be truly enjoying themselves. As we all were.
I’m not sure how long these bands have been touring together, but it’s certain that Honus Honus and crew have found their perfect partners.