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Extra energetic, horn-fueled music

BY DEE FABBRICATORE | NOVEMBER 12, 2009 7:20 AM

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mp3 samples: Christopher the Conquered

"Insane Idiot"

"Rick the American"

"Mother Cholera"

Chris Ford is writhing on the floor.

It’s his last song, and with his band still jamming on stage, he belts out improvised lyrics while curled up in the fetal position. An entranced audience circles around him and, just inches away, wonders if he’s OK.

But the squirming, thrashing, and recoiling — all is normal. It’s just another Christopher the Conquered concert, and Ford is doing what he does best: breaking boundaries. He believes in translating his concerts into unique experiences by exploring physicality. He will try a number of surprising positions on stage: singing with his lanky legs lounging on his keyboard while he plays, for instance. An exuberant showman such as this is bound to get a range of reactions.

“We played in a townie bar in Marshalltown, Iowa, and people mostly didn’t care at all what we were doing,” Ford said. “When that happens, I try to go extra over-the-top to force people who don’t care into shock. I was up on the bar with the crash symbol, and the bartender/owner was staring at me with a menacing look. I don’t believe we’re invited back.”

Ford’s band, Christopher the Conquered, is invited to play in Public Space One, 129 E. Washington St., at 9 p.m. Saturday.

The Des Moines-based band has a postmodern, pop/soul vibe, with an emphasis on postmodern — the band’s latest album, You’re Gonna Glow in the Dark, is set in year 2607. The album’s premise centers on “groups of explorers excavating the remains of human civilization.”

“The whole time I was writing the album, I was thinking: If people were observing our civilization from things left behind, what would they infer about us?” Ford said.

Though the album’s concept is deeply philosophical, the band’s sound is lighthearted and singsongy: a catchy horn section is encouraged to have just as much fun as Ford does onstage.

“When I go to a concert, I want to feel an experience, not just go, and stand there, and wear my favorite T-shirt, and try to look cool in front of my friends,” friend and fellow musician Patrick Flemming said. “And a Christopher the Conquered concert makes the audience a part of the band.”

Flemming helped produce Ford’s latest album, and he is also a member of Des Moines-based the Poison Control Center. He considers You’re Gonna Glow in the Dark his second favorite album of the year, losing only to Yo La Tengo’s Popular Songs.

Although Christopher the Conquered is in its beginning stages, Ford said, he has ambitions for the future, packing a tour van chock-full of unpredictability.

“If I was playing the Conan O’Brien show, I would try to come up with the most bizarre thing nobody’s ever seen before,” he said. “With big exposure like that, I’d have to do something wacky.”

Ford plans to proceed as usual at Saturday’s show by breaking the stage line and zinging the crowd with his high-spirited soul. “If you come to the show, you might even end up playing an instrument,” he said. “If you don’t like to interact, you can sit in the back.”


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