That guy: real magical mystery

BY MELEA ANDRYS | APRIL 23, 2009 7:29 AM

mp3 samples: That 1 Guy



Some people wish to avoid the stigma associated with being singled out as “That Guy.” Berkeley, Calif.-based musician Mike Silverman is not one of those people.

“It started as a joke, but it’s got a lot of significance,” he said about his musical moniker. “The whole nature of what I do is so individual … The name is so open-ended it allows me to be myself on so many different levels.”

Behold Silverman’s diverse résumé: classically trained bassist, jazz musician, instrument inventor, improviser, composer, avant-garde artist, and aspiring magician. Known as much for his technical prowess as for the Magic Pipe, Magic Boot, and Magic Saw — his unconventional self-made instruments — he has become something of a musical giant, having played alongside Tom Waits and Buckethead and boasting a track featured (”Buttmachine”) on Showtime’s dramedy “Weeds.”

On April 26 at 9 p.m., he will bring his eclectic one-man band to the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St. Tickets are $10.

“We’re happy to have such a wonderful and eccentric performer,” said Andre Perry, the booking agent for the Mill. “He’s doing things a lot of other people aren’t doing.”

Silverman’s sound is so out-of-the-ordinary that even he has difficulty classifying it.

“I came up with a generic genre title that I use sometimes — I call it ‘rhythm and sound,’ ” he said. “ ‘Rhythm and blues’ is so vague it doesn’t mean anything anymore, but it still supposedly draws off roots music, and to me that’s what my music does. Rhythm and sound are my two biggest ingredients.”

Though these two components may form the base of his broth, the finished stew is far more complex. Add the Magic Pipe (an upright bass simulation created by a pair of adjustable pipes and orchestral strings), Magic Boot (an electronically enhanced cowboy boot), and Magic Saw (a hot-wired saw), as well as his diverse musical background (jazz, classical, world, percussion), and the result is a mix unable to be replicated.

“The whole fun in what I do [is taking] all these things I’ve done in the past and integrating them into my musical vocabulary,” he said. “When people see me for the first time, they often can’t tell where the sound is coming from or what it’s doing, and it’s very magical in that aspect.”

Silverman is tinkering with elements of the unexplained in his current live act, including the addition of levitation and card tricks.

“I’ve been studying literal magic over the past few years, and as I’ve added more instruments like the Magic Boot and the Magic Saw, they do things that you wouldn’t expect them to do,” he said. “Now, I’m doing actual magic in my act as well, and it’s so interesting how it’s so cohesive with what I do musically. There’s no real sleight of hand in my music per se, but it’s perceived as that sometimes.”

He said he was excited to bring his “new songs and sounds” back to the Mill, where he has performed many times.

“I always like playing there,” he said. “Some of the first tours I ever did were through Iowa City, and it’s always been really good to me.”

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