Live Shots: Bonaparte at Public Works

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I felt a little bad about leaving one of my friends by himself, while I squeezed around snapping photos of Berlin’s Bonaparte last night at Public Works. He lives in Concord, works in a meat department, likes hunting and riding dirtbikes. Which is to say, our interests don’t necessarily overlap. He refers to the last show I took him to – Bear in Heaven at Rickshaw Stop – as “the Ron Burgandy band,” for obvious reasons that continue to elude me.

Bringing him to Bonaparte was partly a joke, in the same way we went to that vegan soul food restaurant (Ed. note – Souley Vegan) but I didn’t tell him until the last minute. Just to get a reaction. After Bonaparte’s first few songs I found him in the center of the crowd and checked in. “It’s kind of weird,” he said.

As far as understatements go, that one was adorably charming. While Bonaparte’s music is relatively straightforward, its performance is not. To start the show, Tobias Jundt ambled around the crowd in Public Works, wearing a faux-tribal pygmy* headdress straight off a SBTRKT album cover, eventually picking up his guitar as if it were a Coca-Cola bottle that fell from the sky or some other entirely foreign object.

When it came time to speak, he yelled one of the band’s catch phrases into the mic: “Are you ready to party with the Bone-a-party!” The crowd cheered, but not loud enough, and he gave it a few more shots. There was no real warm up band, so the cliche “I can’t hear you!” routine was probably appropriate, but in any case, that was the only contrivance of the night, as the band proceeded to follow surprise with shock throughout its set, supported by a revolving cast of characters including...well...that’s what pictures are for (see above gallery).

But don’t be misled, the theatrics weren’t there to distract from subpar music. These punks create eclectic, danceable rock that’s immediately catchy, particularly because Jundt has an ability to fuse familiar concepts with a fresh edge. “I wanna shoot my ego down,” he sang, and I copied those lyrics on paper, followed by the word “cover,” assuming it to be just that. But as far as I can tell (and I may be wrong,) the familiarity is just liberal bits of Hendrix and Wingfield, with some Freud slipped in to make an original classic.

The insane eye candy on stage (popping marshmallows, lollipops, and fruit into audience members’ mouths, stage diving unannounced, and inventing all sorts of new fetishes) during the show was mostly an extremely appreciated bonus.

On “Fly a Plane Into Me” – a desperately romantic kamikaze come-on of a song – the band kept the energy level way, way up, unaccompanied by the additional clowning, vamping circus members. Although, there probably wasn’t anything special or austere about that tune; it’s more likely that was an opportune time for rest of the crew to switch costumes, get the electrical tape pasties just right, and refill their mouths with fake blood.

*It wasn’t until after the show, seeing the diminutive rocker off stage, that the Napoleon connection – at least height-wise – made sense.