That 1 Guy breaks it down in NoHo

By Tappan Parker

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Matthew Harrison / Collegian

The Iron Horse Music Hall was packed on March 11 for a special Northampton performance from That 1 Guy, a one-man band known for his instrument, the Magic Pipe.

The night started with another one-man band, Matt Lorenz, whose stage name is The Suitcase Junket. Lorenz managed to get the crowd’s attention with his folk and blues sounds and an instrument setup that was literally dug out of the trash. It seemed like Lorenz was a street performer gone pro, and it was a very different experience. With mellow lyrics and slow songs, Lorenz opened himself up to the crowd.

After Lorenz left the stage, all that was left was the Magic Pipe, the sole performer who stayed on the stage from start to finish. Looking at it, it seemed like some crazy hardware contraption with gizmos and gadgets thrown in here and there, attached by a string or two, rather than an actual instrument.

However, that is exactly what it became once Mike Silverman, otherwise known as That 1 Guy, took the stage.

Beating on the Magic Pipe and plucking its strings with a drum stick, Silverman began playing his first song of the night, titled “Modern Man.” This high-energy opener riled up the crowd, and they cheered in time with the beat for Silverman’s first wolf howl, which the crowd eagerly repeated.

Silverman brought plenty of new songs to Northampton from his most recent album, “Packs a Wallop!,” as well as some old crowd favorites, including a new remix of “Buttmachine,” which was created and performed especially for the Iron Horse. All of his songs bring something new to the mix of his elaborate repertoire, but every one of them has some sort of funk or groove that everyone can enjoy.

Some of the songs played, such as one called “Bananas,” had a tribal energy and build up. Other songs were mellower and relaxing, such as That 1 Guy’s rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” played on the Magic Saw.

One major highlight of the show occurred when Silverman took out a bow and started making the Magic Pipe sound like a cello. Then he added some beats to it, taking the classical sound and adding it to a rock and roll setting. To continue the sound, he added distortion, and created something that can only be described as ‘rockello’.

How much of what was performed was actually from the songs, only Silverman knows, as it was impossible to tell when he was simply messing around and when he was actually playing written material. He frequently joked around with the crowd, either with musical humor, such as playing a sample repeatedly at odd times, or physical gags like his laser bows.

The sounds that came from the stage completely contradicted what was being heard; audience members heard a big band playing, yet saw only one man banging on a pipe. Somehow, Silverman managed to create an entire band’s sound at once, and man did it work.

But the sound is only part of it. Silverman moved and grooved with his instrument, which has been designed to be able to move around with him as well. With adjustable positions and a flexible base, the Magic Pipe moved and grooved just as much as Silverman did, amplifying the mood that he projected with his music.

It is clear just from watching him that Silverman loves what he does, from the huge grin on his face to his amplified movements to talking to the crowd. At the same time, it is obvious that everything he does is still experimental.

As the inventor of his own instrument, Silverman is constantly modifying and improving the Magic Pipe, and this is still a project. When asked about where he sees himself going next with the Pipe, Silverman responded that he “wants to keep perfecting the instrument.”

However, Silverman does not have plans to ever market the instrument, mainly because he does not “think anyone could play it, it would be too limiting.” But still, he strives to improve. Doing so many shows allows him to “push yourself to improve” and he uses the challenges “in order to cope with stress,” he said.

The one thing about That 1 Guy is that his music is an acquired taste. His eccentric lyrics may shock at first, his oddball stage antics may put some off, but if you stick around, you grow to appreciate the music and laugh right along with him.

Tappan Parker can be reached at [email protected]