Capitol Hill Block Party 2012: John MausPosted by Bebe Besch
Of each Capitol Hill Block Party performance, John Maus’ were definitely the most juxtaposing. The jury is still out on if Maus is mentally stable & influenced by substances, maybe both, or if he is simply too genius for his audience to process. Signs point to the latter.
As a PhD candidate in Political Philosophy with background studies in musical arts, Maus is a complex man with intense opinions. His technical stage set up is anything but complex, however. With a singular microphone, DJ sampler and two-three water bottles, Maus doesn’t do much “playing” of music; Maus himself is what you’ve come to see live.
At the Vera Project Stage of CHBP on Saturday night, Maus was headliner for all of 28 minutes and 10 songs long. With the press of a button, his first of masterful pop songs began. “My Whole World’s Coming Apart” was a fitting first choice, as it was visible beforehand that Maus was physically exhausted while watching St. Lucia perform from side stage prior to his own set.
Maus transforms into a boisterous creature filled with feral energy once his creations project from the stage. There isn’t much random yelling on his most recent release, We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves, but live, Maus channels something unworldly and belts towards the crowd with grasping fists. The haunts of his yelling against his synth-filled pop were matched with expressive hair flipping and chest pounding, whenever his hands weren’t tearing at his own face, that is.
Passersby outside of Capitol Hill Block Party shrieked as Maus took a few moments to yell at them as well over the block party’s perimeter fence. With a few jumps out to the barricade towards fans and many satisfyingly creepy moments, Maus disappeared backstage without a word as the notes from his final song “Believer” lingered. Fans waiting for more and sound techs were confused, but the show had concluded.
For 21 and over attendees of Capitol Hill Block Party, we were treated to another John Maus performance inside Havana on Sunday afternoon. The most bizarre of all stages, Maus found himself literally screaming in a corner (near an open storage closet, no less). With the exception of his opening song “Quantum Leap,” his set list stayed nearly the exact same as the previous night. Maus was looking rested this time, but his shocking faces were still overwhelming in the best possible way. Maus’ vulnerability in the daylight, tucked in the corner of the small venue space makes for an uncomfortable awkwardness that’s refreshing to find in a performance – alerting the most challenging of emotions.
The most endearing part of Maus’ performances are the fan’s reactions. At first, the front row of attendees are almost nearly terrified by his theatrics, but by the end have embraced his uniqueness as their own. Especially in the festival setting, many aren’t sure what they’re quite getting into while attending Maus’ set, but later everyone appears to “get” it. Perhaps we’re all fools who’ll never fully grasp Maus’ intentions. Either way, he made many believers out of the crowds at the Captiol Hill Block Party.