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Rock and roll is very clean these days. The Bentmen want to change all that, if only for one night.
The 36-year-old performance-art tribe, who have been redefining just what crass theatrical rock could and should be since forming in Boston’s early-’80s heyday, make their return to the stage tonight (February 9) at ONCE Ballroom in Somerville. And we don’t envy the clean-up crew tasked with dolling the room back up for whatever’s on the calendar come Saturday.
Because for The Bentmen, the show is just as much what you see as what you hear. Of course, the hearing is easy: This will be the first Bentmen show since September 2014, when they played Brighton Music Hall for WMBR Pipeline’s 50 Years of Boston Rock extravaganza; that was a show ringleader William “Des” Desmond admitted needed to be toned down significantly to accommodate others on the bill. For tonight’s spectacle, the band’s first full-blown, asses-out un-regular gig in roughly a dozen years, there shall be no limitation.
“Our agitators will create mayhem while the band makes its maelstrom of sound,” Des tells the Herald this week. “It’s loud, it’s messy, and at times, it’s progressive. We’re going to pack everything we can into an hour and 20 minutes, which is usually as long as people can stand it.”
The use of the term “everything” is employed here quite literally.
With eight members and a rotating cast of faces new and old (including Des’ daughter Casey, who opens as CMB and will perform a song with The Bentmen for the first time ever) the visual presentation of The Bentmen is like nothing that appears on Boston stages, combining elements of food throwing, human props, head shaving, and crowd agitation as if they were their own genres of music.
Pulling all these things into one un-tidy performance isn’t cheap, especially when factoring the costumes — garbage bags, masks, and icky stuff that sticks to the skin like a bad pop song — and other visual elements.
Enter The Bentmen’s “slush fund.” The mastermind of longtime Bent Man Frank Coleman, a GoFundMe was created last month to raise some coin to help raise the stakes, and the money brought in goes right back onto the stage. It’s like crowdfunding for a band’s record, if only that band then takes physical copies of that record and beats you over the head with it at the release party.
“The Bentmen have their own decrepit process, kinda like a bug coming out of the ground or one of those potatoes that ends up looking like your grandmother,” Coleman says in the GoFundMe video. “So to say that crowdfunding does not come naturally to a bunch of gnarly old fucks like us is the understatement of the year. On the other hand we’ve been passing the tin cup on stage for so many decades that we’ve forgotten which pot we’ve pissed in by this point.”
Des tells us that some of the “perks” for those who donate are… well, they are less than pleasant. “Some people who donated to the GoFundMe are getting the VIP treatment,” he says, “and the VIP treatment is getting abused — that’s what The Bentmen are all about. Hopefully it’ll go well and people will enjoy being a part of it.”
How one proceeds afterwards is up to themselves.
THE BENTMEN + CMB :: Friday, February 9 at ONCE Ballroom in Somerville, 156 Highland Ave. in Somerville, MA :: 8 p.m., 18-plus, $15 advance and $18 at doors :: Advance tickets :: Facebook event page :: Featured Bentmen image by Hans Wendland, courtesy of the band.