Carina Round whispers into Maynard James Keenan’s ear to remind him what they are doing on stage. And where this stage is.
“Atlantis? Like the lost city?” he slurs.
“No, ATLANTA,” Round whispers in his ear.
Keenan’s humor has long been an acquired taste, and that’s part of the reason Puscifer aren’t filling stadiums like TOOL and A Perfect Circle. But those who appreciate his art are here for it. At least, we were Tuesday, June 21, at the Coca-Cola Roxy at The Battery Atlanta, which opened in 2017.
Keenan appears in a prerecorded video as a sort of drunken Max Headroom character, reminding folks in the audience that recording this Puscifer show is forbidden. Fans are warned that cameras, cellphones, and other devices used to save the show will not be tolerated.
Don’t miss the moment by trying to keep it for later.
In fact, Keenan’s character warns, you will be made an example of – and ground into spam.
Those who’ve seen Puscifer on previous tours should remember the parade of characters and prerecorded skits. Last time, in 2015, the band brought a wrestling ring and luchadores. Watching athletes toss each other off the ropes while listening to “Remedy” was magical.
In 2011, fans met Billy Dee and a cast of hillbilly stereotypes complete with a full-size silver bullet camper that Keenan pulled onstage himself.
One of the neatest parts of following Puscifer’s career is finding the Easter eggs, such as during the opening number when Billy Dee gets carried from the audience, across the stage and into the back where he was most certainly turned into canned meat for the crime of using a cellphone during the show.
We’d been warned.
This year, Puscifer brings its existential reckoning. The album of the same name was released in 2020 – that decadelong year of isolation and no live music.
Fans for whom Acrosanti wasn’t enough eagerly lined up in the belly of the baseball beast at Truist Park creating an interesting mix of people.
Folks may not realize Puscifer first appeared as a joke in season one of Mr. Show with Bob and David. The HBO sketch comedy aired in the ‘90s when Keenan’s main band, TOOL, realized mainstream success.
But Puscifer didn’t release a studio album until a decade or so later. And, when TOOL fans heard “V is for Vagina” many didn’t get it.
Keenan’s humor is an acquired taste. He hilariously compared Mila Kunis to Fran Drescher, calling the former a clone of the later.
You can look up the setlist. You can see photos from previous cities on the tour. But being there makes the difference. There is no sea of cellphones glowing, which makes the bouncing lights on stage more impressive. And hypnotic. There’s a true live energy with others around you, breathing the same air, singing the same choruses, and sharing the same viruses.
If you miss the tour, there is no going back. You may watch a clip on YouTube or read a review, but Puscifer live is its own treat.
This tour is a true reckoning of our mortal existence. And aliens.
Photos by Ken Lackner