Where’s the kitchen sink?

A kooky night of pretzel people and shamisen masters

PLENTY PECULIAR<br>M. Incroyable, vocalist for the Peculiar Pretzelmen, shows off his chops on banjo.

M. Incroyable, vocalist for the Peculiar Pretzelmen, shows off his chops on banjo.

Photo By laura brown

The Peculiar Pretzelmen, God of Shamisen and Beat Box Doll at the Crux Artist Collective, Fri., Sept. 12.

Even The Peculiar Pretzelmen would probably admit that the bill at the Crux was kind of peculiar.

The Los Angeles ode to Vaudeville and all things creepy shared the stage with a little-known local band with two music videos to its credit, and a guy who looked like Ritchie Blackmore and played heavy metal on a lute. But these types of things are to be expected at The Crux.

The Pretzelmen have taken on many forms, ranging from two to eight members. On this particular night, the group performed as a trio, which was more than enough to fill the room with boisterous foot-stomping, old-timey tunes.

Vocalist M. Incroyable (which, I assume, means incredibly employable) sported a black derby that matched his impeccable suit … which suited his flawless guitar-and-banjo plucking. His raspy, Tom Waits-ish vocals rumbled under horns and swing arrangements that brought to mind Squirrel Nut Zippers at their weirdest.

The drum set was the most peculiar thing—made with an array of pots and pans hidden behind a giant kick drum. Not a single piece was neglected—especially the soup-pot snare, a cast-iron skillet tom and the two pie pans that made up the high-hat.

I’m not sure how things got there from God of Shamisen. The Santa Cruz four-piece is actually led by a true-to-life shamisen god named Kevin Kmetz, who dares bring forth the ancient three-stringed instrument into the mystical valley of ‘70s prog-metal. Kmetz is actually the only American to win an award in Japan for his mastery of the shamisen, which resembles a banjo and is played with a large plectrum called a bachi.

The rest of the members knew their way around an odd time signature or seven, too. God of Shamisen waltzed and 5/4ed its way through a number of songs from the band’s just-released record, Dragon String Attack, before deciding to bring some vocals to the mix with a cover of Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

I definitely don’t know how things got there from openers Beat Box Doll, which played a musical appetizer of meat-and-potatoes hard rock served between two slices of white bread. Not as exotic or interesting as The Peculiar Pretzelmen or God of Shamisen; but sometimes you just want a cheeseburger.