Naughty By Nature
The Phenomenauts use talent and subterfuge to get top gigs.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
The best way to understand the crazy, talented and esoteric Phenomenauts is to revisit the 2003 Warped Tour.
The quintet wasn’t part of the tour, but that didn’t stop them from showing up unsolicited and performing on lawns and any unattended stages at every stop, all summer long. The feedback eventually swayed tour founder Kevin Lyman, who formally invited them to play the tour in 2004.
Their music – an unyielding stew of late ’70s punk, rockabilly and new wave – is highly contagious. The wildly infectious “Science and Honor” mixes the mantra-style punk of The Clash with the lovable lunacy of Devo. Add in uniforms, a space theme, lasers and explosion effects and a kickass show coalesces.
Sure, these guys are rocking musicians but it’s the impromptu performances – which they call “commando-style” – that make the Phenomenauts stand out.
Somehow, the band snuck backstage during the 2003 California Music Awards in Oakland – featuring No Doubt and Sammy Hagar – set up and started playing to the bands coming off the stage.
“Security couldn’t figure out how to unplug us cause we brought our own power source,” says “commander”/guitarist/vocalist Angel Nova. “Eventually, between songs they asked us to stop but they were kind of powerless.”
They respected the wishes of security and packed up their gear, but didn’t leave empty handed.
“We ended up leaving with a couple cases of beer from backstage, so it was a total rock-and-roll victory,” Nova says. “All these people were taking pictures of us and as we were leaving people were asking for our autographs.”
On their most recent release, the 2010 EP Electric Sheep, the band debuts its new guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Leftenant AR7 or as Nova calls him, “the new robot.”
“We’ve been through a few [robots],” he says. “We’re constantly redesigning them; you need to upgrade technology.”
The Phenomenauts dig playing secret shows at their house, aka the “command center,” a large warehouse with a homemade stage (with a hot tub underneath), balcony, and a classic Muppets red-velvet curtain. But Nova says even a small venue like Carbone’s, where they’ll unleash their sci-fi love on Saturday, is big enough to contain their circuitry, space age props and intergalactic sounds.
THE PHENOMENAUTS play 9pm Saturday, March 26, at Carbone’s, 214 Lighthouse Ave., Monterey. $10. 643-9169.