It’s Valentine’s Day, and you’ve probably seen enough images of topless cherubs and rootless flowers with three-day shelf lives to last a lifetime. Why not enjoy your Valentine’s Day this year by spending it with Electric Six at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor?
Electric Six is a Michigan-bred band fronted by singer Dick Valentine. As the band’s singer/songwriter, he models his lyrics in the same mold as the late Captain Beefheart, marrying a droll sense of humor and colorful vocabulary with offbeat political views and pining over comically flawed relationships. Electric Six lyrics dabble in everything from tongue-in-cheek messages about deploying Formula 409 to clean up the Middle East, Druid fluids making for refreshing drinks and fires in the Taco Bell.
The band is composed of newly implemented guitarist Da Ve, longtime guitarist Johnny Na$hinal, bassist Smorgasbord, drummer Percussion World and keyboardist Chris Tait (also known as Tait Nucleus).
Electric Six’s music is difficult to categorize because it blends elements of so many genres.
“It’s a mix of KISS, Talking Heads and Captain Beefheart,” Tait said. “Lyrically, Dick got a lot of inspiration from Captain Beefheart. The sound of our band is a little more dance than KISS, more rock than Talking Heads and more Captain Beefheart than Captain Beefheart.”
Tait promises prospective fans they’ll be getting a dynamic set sure to cause a dance epidemic. He goes on to explain how his front man’s shtick is a bit like watching a game show host.
“Dick is going to tell you a little bit about your politics and make fun of your way of life,” Tait said. “You’re either going to appreciate it or turn on him for it. There’s the two sides of the coin of whether you’re going to get the band or whether you’re going to get the joke or not.”
While Electric Six’s singer turned to Captain Beefheart for inspiration, Tait said he got a lot of his synth style from listening to ’80’s pop bands like Depeche Mode. The bleeps and blips in the background of their music factor heavily into the Electric Six writing process.
Tait also said while the synth machine plays a hand in Electric Six’s catalogue, the synth takes a backseat to the main engines behind Electric Six music: electric guitar and drums. Tait said he isn’t being lazy and he does love to play, but that the synthesizer sometimes has to take a backseat for the greater good of the band.
As an added perk, he said this allows him to sit back and watch the crowd react to hits like “Down at Mcdonnelzz.”
Some of the biggest crowd “pops” are elicited by Tait’s piano intros in the band’s “weekday game-show” songs. The songs are essentially 90-second sound explosions that perfectly epitomize the Electric Six experience.
If you’re lucky, the band will bring back the bit where all of the 90-second songs from their catalog were played back to back, while Dick would unveil a new cape at the onset of each new song. The ridiculousness of the sight builds and builds as Dick removes each cape for each song.
The last anecdote Tait shared was about the first time he ever encountered Dick Valentine.
“Dick was playing to a crowd of eight people and a couple of tumbleweeds, doing pushups and getting all sweated up on stage,” he said. “Then after the pushup song was done playing he tossed the shirt he was wearing like a souvenir to a witness. Then he told the man that he’d need the sweat-soaked shirt after the show was over.
The horrified sweat holder could only shake his head as his girlfriend roared with laughter. Basically, Electric Six plays to an audience when there is no audience.”
The Blind Pig is a terrifically intimate venue. When asked why the band has so often returned to Ann Arbor, Tait said, “They’ll have us, and they give us money.”
Check out their music at www.ElectricSix.com. Tickets for the show are $15 and the doors open at 9 p.m.