AT PIONEER SQUARE
by Joe Faustin Kelly
I was feeling
a bit unlawful as we reached the corner across from Pioneer
Square. "Wait cop." My friend, Charlie Salas-Humaras
(who today will be known as Panther), turns his body to the
side in some ridiculous attempt to block the view of his elephantine
amplifier. This man is the best fucking band I've ever seen.
confides, "I'm really fucking nervous. Like, I know I've
jinxed myself; I've said this before, I just think that someone
is going to freak out and kick my ass. You know, just because
passes, and we cross the street into Pioneer Square. Charlie
with his amp, me with a mini tape recorder and a few others
already in place with various cameras. Though six of us are
involved in this little stunt, the entire situation is reliant
upon the giant brass nuts of Charlie. We dart through the scattered
crowd of a few folks, all of which are gathered here for no
apparent reason. Charlie is shaking a bit while he plugs his
gear in to the predetermined outlet that, miraculously, has
power flowing to it. He turns on. The crowd seems to be waiting
for what is about to happen while simultaneously not giving
a shit about anything at all. Perfect.
of feedback leaks out of the amplifier, echoing several blocks
from where we stand. Glances that say, "oh fuck,"
bounce between the members of our militia.
Standing solo at the center of the curved performance area,
the performance commences: "Hello. We're called Panther."
which consists of pre-produced electronica, is not your standard
techno fare. Stuttered bleeps, daft synthesizer tones, and minimal
rhythm accompaniment support Panther's deconstructionist R&B
vocals. With an oddly humanistic feel caused by an utter lack
of the usual technology that helps to produce electronic music,
the result is a bizarre but genius swing at futurism. The intense
delivery and totally unorthodox soundtrack are what make this
a "stunt," as opposed to just some guy playing music
on the street.
I don't expect the people here today to understand that--or
even care, for that matter. For them, this is more about free
entertainment. I ask a mid-30s, suburban-looking couple what
they think. They seem a bit dazed: "It's bizarre."
I haven't seen anything like it. It's entertainment, I guess."
Another, similar couple lets me know that they are in fact "warming
up to it." I imagine that only means they don't find it
to pursue commentary while Panther continues to spaz. The amassing
crowd, at this point, seems more like orderlies in a mental
ward poising to restrain an AWOL patient.
think it fucking rocks," one of the typical hang-out-in-Pioneer-Square
kids tells me.
high school-ish guy says, "I like the beat, man. It's fuckin'
tight. A lot of people would be sayin' the shit is tight--you
know what I'm sayin'?" Yeah, totally.
In the background, someone yells something about cocaine. Panther's
set is nearly finished, and miraculously, nobody, law enforcement
or otherwise, shows up to put a stop to this peculiar event.
Even more surprising is the size of the crowd assembled to watch
some handsome lunatic singing falsetto R&B along to crappy
techno. The biggest shock comes at the finish, when the end
of the last song turns into a massive eruption of applause.
the part when I'm supposed to insert some kind of embarrassing
and cliché commentary about how this public shenanigan
turned into a success and made everyone happy, and Charlie and
I high-five and hug in slow motion. But no; this is the part
where I became confused. What was meant to totally bewilder
the Sunday afternoon crowd to the point of Panther getting his
ass kicked, did quite the opposite: It was well received. A
girl yells out, "Dude! Will you marry me?
goes back to the getaway van, I duck back to get some final
commentary from a group of teenage girls lined up in front the
whole time. "People need to do that more," one notes.
I wholeheartedly agree. When she determines I have some kind
of association with this whole charade, the girls' questions
suddenly shift my direction. "Where does he, like, perform?"
"Do you know him?"
by the last question, which comes from the most deadpan member
of the group: "Is there a deeper meaning?" I stutter
my way out of any real answer, and thank them for their time.
But is there a meaning? Only Panther truly knows.