By Kemp Baldwin
Wednesday night at the Bowery Ballroom, tUnE-YaRdS – the one-(wo)man band flanked by a bassist when playing live – shook my brain and excited my ears enough that I wanted to find her parents. An alternative cut of Mama Mia, a movie I have never seen, but whose trailer I’ve been subjected to a number of times, unfolded before me. ABBA’s Dancing Queen wasn’t assisting a bride-to-be find her father, but instead tUnE-YaRdS’ frenetic hodgepodge oddball jams had her possible dads coming out of the woodwork. (Her mom, a combination of Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, and Betty Davis (the singer, not the actress), didn’t show because her three heads tend to distract the crowds.) But her plausible father candidates chimed in:
Yo, so I show up to the Bowery because this chick, tUnE-YaRdS sent me a facebook message that said something to the effect of, “Hey, despite you being a machine primarily used to make beats, you may be my father,” which makes sense because I made a lot of babies back in the 80s. Bitches can’t say no to a funky beat and really all you have to do twist my knobs and punch my buttons and I’m ready to explode like a firecracker on the Fourth of July. Have you motherfuckers heard, “Sexual Healing”? That little sperm of a song has been knocking ladies up for nearly thirty years. My boys swim hard and long! The shits would have pruned fingers if they had hands.
Anyway, this wild looking white chick comes on stage with this bassists that looks like Jermaine from Flight of the Conchords and I’m like, “Nah, this cracker can’t be my daughter. She looks nothing like me.” But then I’m like, “TR-808, don’t be too quick to pass judgment. You’re a machine. You’ve made kids that look like Phil Collins before.” The girl starts to sing, bouncing her voice over eight octaves and looping the shit so it harmonizes with itself to form an a cappella group on acid in jungle and I was about to walk because I’m not really into that type of party. But then she grabs two drum sticks and boom, she drops it like it’s hot or 1986 – boom fucking bap. She’s got Daddy’s rhythm – but in analog. And I start to try to piece it together. Now, I’m wondering if the condom broke the night me, Run DMC, and Madonna had a freak fest.
Here’s a little song I wrote this little lady sent me a note, “Don’t worry you may be my Daddy.” I’m like, ohhhhhh oh oh oh shit oh shi-hithit-hit, I can’t afford any more child support on this one hit. But I’m Bobby McsuperniceguyFerrin, so I go see my maybe daughter open for the Dirty Projectors.
She hits the stage – be bop bop bo bo boooh – and holy moly, this girl has pipes that could provide plumbing to the Pentagon. Can you say, bootybasbabo? Probably not, because it takes having at least a seven octave range to make it sound right. But she can – the apple of my eye. Her voice is mellifluous, piercing, buoyant, goofy, frightening, and soulful. I want to hop on stage and vocal-jam hug my little girl and tell her that eccentric pop tends to yield only one hit, but don’t worry you will have a catalog rich with gems that dozens of devoted fans will love. Then she starts to get funky on a baritone ukulele and I notice that stringy-hair freak, Tiny Tim, and that odd night comes rushing back.
OK, I’m a weirdo. I have witch hair, a shrill voice, and play the ukulele. But that little girl up there is the fruit of my loins. I mean she plays the ukulele, the baritone ukulele at that– it’s not even funny like the soprano axe I wield. No one chooses to play the ukulele. It’s either forced upon you by your mother or it’s in your blood. And for my baby girl to have that thing sounding like Sly Stone bored in Hawaii, she must have the uke gene deep in her double helix.
Bobby, don’t give me that look. We’re musicians things get weird and babies get made, even when it defies biology. A three-headed woman, a machine, a one-man orchestra, and the original freak folk, came together to produce this incredibly innovative eccentric-pop cherub. Let’s hope the world accepts her and she becomes a star.
Your Mommy and Daddies love you, tUnE-YaRdS.