Westword: Folk weirdo FaceMan commissions a life-sized Bukowski diorama for shows at Mutiny
FaceMan, helmed by the uni-monikered frontman Steve, is just as interested in performance art as it is acoustic guitars. Case in point: the elaborate shark-shaped stage the band set up at Lost Lake last year, which added a theatrical dimension to the band's music (it also picked up an award in Westword's Best of Denver issue).
On May 10, the band will once again team up with Scott McCormick and Incite Productions for a show at Mutiny Bookstore on South Broadway. The gig will feature a 12' by 8' 'shoebox diorama' based on a poem by Charles Bukowski. Modeled after the craft projects familiar to any elementary school student, the diorama will take its compositional cues straight from the imagery in the poem "The Bluebird."
"I'd always been thinking about doing a diorama," says Steve, who adds the idea for playing in a giant diorama crystallized after he watched a band play in the bookstore on the corner of South Broadway and East Ellsworth Avenue. "I've always liked the idea of having some sort of little scene or something built as a reaction to your perception to something you've read. I thought it would be cool if we built a giant one and played a set or two in there."
To make that vision a reality, Steve connected with the creative crew that made the giant shark stage. That team included Justin Hicks, Katie Webster and Keli Sequoia of Incite Productions, stage experts who also work as carpenters and set designers for Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Steve also enlisted the aid of photographer and artist and photographer Scott McCormick to finalize the look and feel of the piece.
"They're set designers and people that work for the Denver Center theater. They're looking for creative projects," Steve notes. "I don't think there's much limitation to what they're looking for. It's a perfect fit for our band. We're interested in doing shows with certain angles to them every time we play."
Before McCormick and the Incite team could start planning the final look of the diorama, FaceMan had to finalize a literary piece for the project's focus. Building a piece based on a novel would be too clunky and complicated, Steve says, partly because of the conflicts posed by taste.
"I could name a bunch of books that I couldn't imagine anyone not knowing ... You could do the same and our lists wouldn't match up," he says.
The poetry of Charles Bukowski was a perfect alternative. The band could recite a poem during the performance, and everyone involved could be on the same page. What's more, Bukowski's poem "The Bluebird" offers plenty of rich imagery to serve as aesthetic and musical inspiration. That much is clear from the opening lines:
"there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I'm not going
to let anybody see
there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
While the band won't write any new music specifically for the poem, Steve says the performance will include plenty of musical nods to the source material.
"Our music will be set to the scene, to Charles Bukowski's writing," he says.
The twelve foot by eight foot structure will look like "a giant shoebox," and will be visible to pedestrians passing by. Steve hopes the massive look and feel of the set will draw audience members, and he hopes to continue the tradition with new bands and literary pieces. "Ideally, I'd like to do something monthly, maybe with other bands owning it," he says.
Before that can happen, FaceMan has to get through the first gig on May 10. The band will play three sets starting at 8 p.m.
"We're doing something pretty weird and something that hopefully is going to get emotional reactions out of people," Steve says. "If we don't have an 80 percent chance of failure on a show, I don't want in. It inspires us to do fun stuff."