Happenings /// The Pizza Underground is in on the joke

15329246121_7b5f32bceb_z“Do you kids like pizza?” an excitedly drunk former child star called from the stage. Shortly after these words were uttered, a storm of pizza boxes were sent down to a welcoming audience, as if the usual crowd surfers were not made of sweat and fists but of pepperoni and cheese. The band on stage launches into a cover of Lou Reed’s classic “Perfect Day,” only they’ve changed all the words to be about most people’s favorite food. This was not a fever dream, just another Wednesday night in Nashville.

I should probably stop here to tell our readers that I’ve spent an inordinate amount of my life thinking that I was named after Culkin’s character in the Home Alone movies. I only found out that was not the case shortly after I won a Do615.com contest for free tickets to the show and went into deep research, accepting that my perceived spiritual connection to the kazzo player/hypeman on stage was nothing more than a passing one.

Much has been made about Macaulay Culkin’s career post-stardom, from the drug arrests to the rapid aging process, so it only makes sense that the peanut gallery has come out in full force to vehemently disapprove of The Pizza Underground. A performance art collective/musical act based in New York, the group has dealt with beer bottles and boos across the world, a reaction that might seem justified when you consider that the star of Home Alone has found his calling lampooning one of the world’s most revered rock acts.

At one point in The Pizza Underground’s surprisingly entertaining 40-minute set at The High Watt, the group member tasked with mimicking Velvet Underground collaborator Nico accounted for the tour stop in Nashville by stating that the group “thought that [the city] might be tired of seeing competent musicians.” They then launched into a cover of “I’ll Be Your Mirror” called “I’m Little Caesar’s,” a playful seizure of identity for a group that seems to have no calling other than exploring the boundaries of good taste.

Taste aside, it is still a surreal experience to share a space with one of the more recognizable faces on the planet. Despite his questionable decisions, it would be farfetched to think that most Americans wouldn’t have a visceral reaction upon hearing Culkin’s name. A simple scroll through my News Feed earlier today revealed one of those classic social media death hoaxes had now claimed the life of Culkin, who is indeed alive and kicking. Where most civilians can’t fathom an individual blowing such an auspicious start on a diverse set of vices, it helps to understand that sometimes the best way to avoid the trappings of Hollywood might be to pack up and make a home in a new place.

Luckily, it seems that Culkin has found a merry band of pranksters to serve as the yin to his yang, from the aforementioned (and heavily accented) Nico impersonator to the adorable pizza box percussionist to the group’s noticeably mustachioed de facto leader. Something that I’ve taken away from years of attending concerts is that a band that is having fun playing less than stellar music is a hell of a lot more enjoyable than watching one of your favorite bands take themselves too seriously as live performers.

If there’s one thing The Pizza Underground excel at, it’s having fun on stage and bypassing any negative crowd reaction by smothering it with positivity and winking acknowledgment of a central joke. From positioning themselves as a cheeky alternative to the Country Music Awards crowding downtown only a few blocks away, to interweaving Billy Joel covers and a short guest set from a wry Kurt Cobain impersonator, it became unavoidable to get in on the joke, absolutely cherishing it in one quick and violent reaction.

While it wasn’t an impressive display of musicianship by any standards, I found myself leaving The High Watt with expanded beliefs on the power of musical comedy and wishing that everyone I’ve ever known could have been in the room to experience such a goofy show with me. I also found myself, strangely enough, recommending to others that they should carve out some time in their busy pizza-eating lives to make their way to one of these performances. It’s refreshing to experience a performance that shirks its pretension by being so charmingly enjoyable, and who knows, you might even get a free slice out of it.

 – Kevin Brown 

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