Must-see music: Man Man, Brendan James and more

Man Man

The hallmark of experimental art-rock is to be as unusual and creative as musically possible, and rarely do those characteristics translate to mass appeal.

But Man Man is one of those rare groups, like the Talking Heads or Frank Zappa, that’s skilled enough to straddle the line between shock value and truly compelling music.

I’ll give you an example. On the latest album, Man Man has a song called “End Boss,” which is about Wolf Blitzer eating infants, playing pool and drinking vodka. When the group performs it on stage, members often sport custom-made tunics with the former CNN anchor’s face all over it.

Unusual concept, yes. But it’s also a catchy song with xylophone-driven rhythms, and an anthem-like chorus that’s repeated so much you can’t help but sing along: “If you won’t reinvent yourself, you can’t circumvent your hell.”

You could call it indie rock, but it’s the elements pulled from vastly different genres that make Man Man so unique. For one thing, there’s a lot of emphasis on diverse rhythms. At one moment, they’re channeling reggae, the next it’s syncopated funk. Then you’ve got lead singer Ryan Kattner’s voice, shouty and gruff, that gives it a hard-rock ethos, even during light-hearted, melodic tunes. Toss in some well-placed sound effects and psychedelic organ riffs, and that’s essentially Man Man’s beautiful brew of dance-worthy weirdness.

See it for yourself at 8:30 p.m. Friday at the Pour House on James Island. Tickets are $14 and can be purchased online at

Another not-to-be-missed show is Saturday at the Charleston Music Hall, when singer-songwriters Brendan James and Steven Fiore will share the stage.

James, a New Hampshire native, played open-mic gigs in New York until he was signed to Capitol Records in 2005. Since then, he’s released five records, with another, “The Howl” due out this year.

The piano-anchored singer has gained a following with heartfelt ballads such as “Simplify,” the title track of his latest album released in 2013, that begs listeners to “stop for a minute, wipe the progress from our eyes and stare at the setting sun that holds us here alive.” The niche has led him to share stages with John Legend, John Mayer and Paula Cole, among others.

Steven Fiore, a Charleston native and guitarist, made his debut with the album “Youth and Magic,” in 2013, but he was involved with the local music scene for years before that.

He’s always had a knack for easy-listening music, with melodic guitar picking and whimsical songs. Together, Fiore and James will likely serve up a night of honest acoustic music with twice the amount of soulful crooning. Catch them at 8 p.m. Saturday for $15 in advance or $19 at the door. For more information, visit

You won’t find very much information about Harpooner really anywhere, even the band’s page on, which lists a whopping three songs as their only studio recordings.

So why hype up their show in Charleston this week? Because those three songs are enough to know that this band is onto something.

It’s retro ’70s rock-n-roll meets dreamy pop with a wailing organ, pretty harmonies and reverb-heavy vocals that seem to be all the rage these days with bands like Houndmouth and Tame Impala.

Here’s what else we know about Harpooner: they’re a four-piece band from Bloomington, Indiana, and according to their social media feeds, they do a lot of touring.

This Thursday, they’re headlining The Royal American with opening acts Jordan Igoe and Deadwin, two local bands who take the stage starting at 9 p.m. It’s probably the cheapest high-quality show you’ll see all week at $5 a head.

Visit for more details.

Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gal.