The Art of Novelty with M.A.R.C. and the Horsejerks, Latter Day Skanks, and RLLRBLL

It is rare that I make the lengthy pilgrimage to the Fixin’ To in the northern climes of St. Johns, but I was glad that I did a couple Fridays ago for M.A.R.C. and the Horsejerks’ album release party. It was a night of high novelty, art rock and goofy theatrics.

RLLRBLL started the show with a rousing set of their gothy synth-led art rock. Their dark, earnest songs made them somewhat of an odd band out on a bill with two bands that deal heavily in camp and tongue in cheek humor, but their performance was still incredibly engaging. Beautiful, delicate ballads crescendoed into cacophonous climaxes in inventive compositions executed with precision and intensity by musicians who have been playing together for more than 20 years.

Latter Day Skanks graced the stage next, clad in missionary/punk drag and rocking hard-hitting drums, screaming flying-V guitar, crabcore stances, and hilariously obscene lyrics. Their music is an in-your-face comedy/novelty take on hardcore punk and hard rock with a satirical blade pointed at the Mormon church and other institutions that discriminate against queer folks. Each member possesses a stage name and rank within the Church of Latter Day Skanks, with Prophetess Josephina Smith on lead vocals and bass, Elder Bring ‘Em Hung on guitar and vocals, and Elder Milfred Trimley on drums. They also have some pretty choice song hymn titles, like “Jesus Plasty” and “Under the Boner of Heaven.”

M.A.R.C. and the Horsejerks converged upon the stage with its six wig-clad members, over a dozen instruments, and multiple horse props. Frontman M.A.R.C. Horsejerk (who may or may not have associations with other area bands like Nasalrod, Mr. Frederick, and General Electric) remained in character throughout the performance and even during soundcheck. He embodied the role of a cartoonish, grizzled horse rancher with a penchant for cheese, animal husbandry, shopping at Sears, and bellyaching about his neighbors, singing and speaking with a vocal timbre somewhere between Captain Beefheart and Yosemite Sam.
M.A.R.C.’s backing band had a variety of whimsical stage names and instrumental talents, with Tawny Winufer Sandasin on bass and foot tambourine, Toots/Tater on banjo and guitar, Twiggy Barndust on washboard, glockenspiel and auxiliary drums/percussion, Mouse Milk on keyboard and viola, and Bobby Butts on trumpet, guitar and auxiliary percussion. Despite being flanked by such a robust ensemble, M.A.R.C. also had a bit of a one-man-band setup with foot-pedal-operated bass and snare drums that he played while strumming an acoustic guitar and yawping about his bucolic dreams and misadventures. While the off-kilter vocals and goofy, deranged lyrical content was consistent throughout the set, they began with a number of folksy and melodically pretty numbers that were at times reminiscent of Sufjan Stevens or Andrew Bird. As the performance progressed, the band began to rock harder and stranger, revealing a unique brand of avant garde folk-rock with some faint echoes of poly-genre weirdos like Butthole Surfers, Mr. Bungle and perhaps even Terry Riley. In addition to all this, M.A.R.C. peppered the set with comical and sometimes incoherent ramblings, audience members danced and hollered, a hobby horse was passed around the room, and at some point I found myself pumping a plastic horse statue up and down in the air in rhythm with the music. It was definitely a good set!

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