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Patchwork chaos

Texas-based Attic Ted's mad theatricality comes wearing masks

If Attic Ted challenges you to a staring contest, you’d be better off refusing. Photo credit: El Barto

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It will never make sense to me how people tend to shun oddities in their art. Even if something may not be the sort of thing you'd ideally like to listen to on any random day, that's what makes a little jolt of the unusual a special thing. I cherish weirdness in music; I recall being down in Austin for South By Southwest in 2011 and stumbling upon a band called the Back Pockets. The enormous collective performed in the parking lot of a theater, carrying with them a cult-like swagger as they dressed themselves in scraps of fanciful clothes and wore glitter and makeup like war paint. Their enormous, stylistically voracious music blended folk-punk with art-damaged freak-outs in a way that invited the audience to take part in the madness.

My friend stood next to me, leaned over, and said, "I don't really dig the whole carnival vibe. Just come out and play your songs."

At this point, I've seen enough laid-back dudes come onstage and go through the motions of performing. Every now and again, I need a little insanity, a little inscrutability, to lighten up my day. Texas-based oddballs Attic Ted are not lacking for inscrutability - almost literally, as they wear oversized, cartoonishly bizarre masks. Led by mask-maker, organist and general madman Grady Roper, Attic Ted is the sonic result of cramming punk, podunk country, gypsy rock, and hysterical preaching into a woodchipper and seeing what bloody chaos emerges from the other side.

Comparisons could be made to the Residents, or even to local favorites the Fabulous Downey Brothers (though, Attic Ted might be their cousins that grew up in the sticks), but my mind goes to genre-defying cult heroes the Billy Nayer Show. Both Attic Ted and the Billy Nayer Show embrace a multi-media presentation that envelops the audience in a warped pall of distorted senses. Seeing Attic Ted perform, it may be finally appropriate for the overused superlative of a band being "brain-melting" to pop into your head. Roper's slips into the role of the frantic, bombastic bandleader with such a grace and alacrity that it's actually kinda freaky. Certainly, the craggy caricatures that are scrawled on their masks do nothing to soothe the nerves that Attic Ted work so hard on winding up.

Musically, Roper and company possess an omnivorous hunger, stealing elements from various genres and imbuing them with a theatricality that melts the jagged edges that might prevent certain styles from joining together. This patchwork music, though technically functional, still lumbers along like Frankenstein's monster, always threatening to collapse into a pile of disparate parts. It's this foreboding wobble, always looming in the background, that adds another bit of tension to songs that have a tendency to barrel forward on uneven legs. With Attic Ted's penchant for surrealism coloring everything they do, being kept so consistently off-kilter comes part and parcel with the whole experience. Taking in an Attic Ted performance feels like riding one of those old, wooden roller-coasters - those ones that actually manage to scare you for their proximity to real danger, not the manufactured kind that the slicker rides possess.

Attic Ted is leaving the desert for a tour through the Pacific Northwest. In this incarnation, Roper will be performing solo. Somehow, the impression of a single guy onstage with a psychotic mask might actually be more affecting than an entire band. If you were to stumble in on Attic Ted, alone onstage, positively losing it in a room full of strangers, I'd advise you to stick around to see just how far down the rabbit hole you and your fellow audience are willing to follow him.

Attic Ted, w/ Cedar Sap, Chris, Arale, 10 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 10, cover TBA, Le Voyeur, 404 4th Ave. E., Olympia, 360.943.5710, voyeurolympia.com

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