There are lots of ways to preview a performance, something people have been doing since Gladiator vs. Lion, circa 264 B.C. Most obvious is an interview with the band (or the lion: "So, Leo, do you use Springsteen to pregame?"). But experience proves that Man Man, a five-piece rock(ish) band from Philadelphia, don't sit well for haircuts or interviews, so we won't do that.

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Another way is describing the band, mostly factually, in a manner that sparkles but ultimately says nothing about the sound itself. Like: Man Man make music with water, spoons, squeak toys, bike horns, and steel buckets; keys, sax, accordion, and guitar. Like: A lot of people say they sound like Beefheart and Waits and Zappa, but whatever. There are gruff ensemble choruses plus refrains yoinked from Hans Christian Andersen and the Beatles. If their song titles were shaped, they'd be rectangular ("Ice Dogs," "Hot Bat," "Fishstick Gumbo") and studded with tiny poems, like metaphorical Easter eggs: "ebony toothaches," "knees, nosebleeds," and "sock of cocaine."

The last way is the one that matters, which is the trapping of a moment: Honus Honus at the mic, nose streaked with white war paint sweating itself down his beard like a flash flood of Elmer's glue. He raises both eyebrows, opens his lips to a pursed slit. He cocks his head, raises a bicycle horn, and squawks it.

This guy's cohorts—sing along now: Chang Wang, Pow Pow, Sergei Sogay, and Alejandro Cougar Borg—are identically dressed and haired, and after this song they will jump into the air, splay hands high, and release fistfuls of pink, yellow, and blue confetti, purposefully enough to concave the lower back and go potbelly. It is a yawp, an exclamation point. Confetti drifts into your hair and sticks to your eyelashes, so you keep it, like you've been handed the moment, boxed in a box joyous and Crayola-colored.

It's all planned. Like chaos, thunderstorms, and butterflies, Man Man only seem random, a semblance validated by the aforequoted lyrics (see also "Engrish Bwudd," which begins, "All I want to be is a shovely bubble gobbly gook/A seagull stole him from his slooo-w maaa-ma's ha-ands") and a beautifully weird MySpace page. It includes Etta James, a wombat with two teeth, shout-outs to baseball and basketball, Richard Brautigan, Aztecs, sex, tragedy, and a cleavage shot. But do not be fooled. These guys practice. They draft. They plot. Live, they perform as a unit, evolved beyond need of eye contact, and don't even stop to chat up the crowd. At last summer's Pitchfork Festival in Chicago, they used feathers instead of confetti, not because the drugstore lacked the latter but because it was a hot day and everyone was gummy with sweat and spilt beer. The feathers stuck, and stayed, to bodies, all day, like ashes or lipstick traces (or the clap, I might add).

If you look more deeply into the Man Man men, you'll see they're more than weird. Virtually every song on last year's gloaming, circuslike Six Demon Bag could be (meaning: probably is) about a girl who loved and left, or else the loopy thoughts that come from being young, horny, and poor: "Gotta get it, get it, got it, good, I got it, get it, gotta gotta get it." In other words, and other worlds, they've been through the shit but are resisting the emotional and artistic paralysis that often results. One might say they're Plato's wise and brave, who left the cave and waited until the light stopped blinding, or Rilke's true poet, who wanders the world with his palms facing up, telling the story as he reads it. Only one wouldn't, because the air is shot with pink glitter, and rock critics aren't supposed to philosophize.

Actually, here is the real last way, the one that truly matters: "After the show," said a friend to me recently, "I went to the bathroom and when I came out, the guitarist was standing between the bar and the door. He was sweaty, and still in his tennis getup, so I came up to him and put my hand on his back. He turned to me, and then I said 'Hey! Great show!' and he smiled a friendly smile and said 'Hey, thanks!' And then I walked away."

The glitter goes a long way, but so does the eye contact, the not being an asshole. This last thing has nothing to do with journalism, but is the best way of show previewing; it's what you tell your little sister when she asks you what the cool kids are doing tonight. My own sister is in town ce soir and so I quote "Skin Tension": "'Ice cream, ice cream goddamn!' Siobhan: Go see Man Man."recommended

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