In 1988 or so, I started working for the Warfield Theater in San Francisco. Back then Bill Graham was still alive and making sure each and every show was run flawlessly to keep his standard of Warfield entertainment unparalleled and a pinnacle of operation. Not so today. Now there seems to be a serious communication problem with event management and staff. Some of us have to resort to either checking online or reluctantly reading the SF Weekly for call times and show info for the Warfield.
It was when I was in the process of checking current Warfield events in the SF Weekly that I saw one of its journalists was recommending a particular show to attend and they had great difficultly writing a review for the band. In fact, they made it a point that this band defied all classification or description. Other than to say they were amazing to watch live.
The Weekly has finally shown they’ve got (or at least the journalist has got) some integrity and discernment for good music again. And all this because of one band they were reviewing.
The band is called Borts Minorts. The first thing I noticed about the ad/review was the photo. A man in a shiny white hooded unitard, casually reclining on a couch with what appeared to be two lovely Jazzercise aficionados, while he rested his hands on a sword. The whole image was not only absurd but extremely humorous.
I looked closer and realized that I knew the face of the lycra-encased Lancelot. He was an old friend who I had lost contact with almost 17 years ago. I always wondered what happened to him and dreamed of the day I’d meet him again. I decided to do a search of bands on MySpace, the answer to all identity issues. I finally found the profile for Borts Minorts and there in all his glory was my old friend Chris Carlone in costume displaying his intellectual prowess and humor in the photo gallery. His poses, gestures and facial expressions made me think of David Cross on speed doing Stockhausen.
When I had worked side by side with him all those years ago on Haight Street, it was extremely difficult to get work done… he was on non-stop. He’d have the whole place rolling in laughter, including patrons. We used to make each other laugh with this liberating abandon that left me feeling euphoric. In fact after getting to know him outside of work, I felt like he was a soul mate; he just made feel so happy and excited about life. Or maybe that’s how he made everyone feel.
To me, he was not only a genuine, kind-hearted person but a genius as well, creatively and musically. That’s one of the main components of his performance that make it work. He’s ridiculous and mocking, to the point of humiliation and self- sacrifice without being cruel, pretentious or callous like most artists. There’s just something about him that is so lovable and personable that all the usual brutal or shameless contempt that accompanies the fundamental subversiveness of surrealist performance art just melts away. It seems he’s finally found an outlet for all that hyperactivity and wit he was known for. At times if you catch his spontaneous outbursts, they can feel like watching Butoh on acid.
He’s surrounded by hordes of like-minded artists, all equally brilliant like Uni and her Ukulele, Le Momo Sonic and Nora Keyes. The references and influences for Borts Minorts is endless in relation to Dadaism and Surrealist theatre. If you were to take all the elements of tacky pop culture, socially relevant criticism, stand-up comedy (again think David Cross and Andy Kaufman’s love child), experimental insanity, and scientific, intellectual observations, you’d have Borts Minorts. But I couldn’t do them justice. Any band that has other reviewers and critics proclaiming they are: ‘music to start a cult to’, ‘his performance is eerie, mystifying, and phenomenally odd’, and ‘holy god they’re mind blowing’ really can’t be put into words. My favorite review was by the Tucson Scene (ironic as Chris is from Tucson) which stated, “Borts Minorts, a bizarre performance project from one of the members of Pollo Elastico, will appeal to fans of Devo, Kraftwerk, Blue Man Group, the Nazis from Big Lebowski, and fitness-guru Richard Simmons.”
So with songs like Sassafras Seedling, Human Error, Networker, Shelby (dedication to the character in Better off Dead) and Chewbs Pewbs, they put the hilarity and originality back into art. And the instruments they use are just the beginning, like the I-Mac, Keyboards, Trombone, guitar, drum set, slide whistle, recorder, walkie-talkies, ukulele, one-string stand-up snow-ski bass (some are handmade instruments!), the saxophone and theremin.
Recently a very popular, extremely pretentious band called Of Montréal completely ripped off Chris’ image; an entirely unique creation. Of Montréal came here in February on a tour and a month or so later came out with a video of the lead singer wearing the same white unitard and doing the exact same maneuvers as Chris. However, he fails miserably at pulling this off. That band is missing an important factor to make the unitard work, and that’s a sense of humor! I’m very disappointed Chris had his brain- child nearly kidnapped but at the same time imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Did the singer of Of Montreal rip off the beloved Carlone’s idea? I think so, but it may remain a mystery.
So show your support and go see Borts Minorts, the best band you may ever see live. Chris is just about the most amazing person I’ve ever known.###