Blood, felt, and rock and roll

On the road with Harry and the Potters and Uncle Monsterface

UNCLE MONSTERFACE: More than a mascot.An introduction, by Jesse Farrell: When a rock band asks you to go on tour, unless there is a compelling reason not to – like, the bass player is eight months pregnant and a junkie – you go. My friend Marty is the lead singer of an unusual rock trio called Uncle Monsterface. Last month he told me they were going on tour, and also asked if I could come along. I’m not a musician, but in Uncle Monsterface, that’s not always a drawback. Their sound, as they will proudly tell you, has been described as a cross between They Might Be Giants and Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. They have a lively stage show which incorporates film, animation, elaborate backing tracks, and, most famously, a coterie of sock puppets. The puppets are led by the band’s namesake, a nearly seven-foot-tall, green-headed, avuncular presence who has been spotted dancing and running around many a venue. More than just a mascot, Uncle Monsterface is the avatar of everything the band represents: the power and joy of childhood exploding all over a dirty and compromised adult life.

As an evening's entertainment, it’s hard to forget.

So I made plans to spend the first two weeks of March traveling around the country with Marty and the Monsterface dudes, packed in a van with their tourmates Harry and the Potters. The Potters are two real-life brothers who appear as Harry, year 4, and Harry, year 7, and perform songs entirely about Harry Potter and his years at Hogwarts School. It might sound silly, but this simple, brilliant idea has brought them success most working musicians can only dream of. When a group of screaming teenage girls meets the Potters, what erupts is the kind of visual shorthand you see in movies when the director wants to signal “teen sensation.” The Potters were graciously letting Uncle Monsterface open for them and gain access to their already-huge audience.

I set out on this tour with two promises to myself: Be open and expect nothing.

Do everything with good intentions.

Another introduction, by Harry and the Potters: As we prepare for departure, we find that we are beginning to feel like a real rock band! We have a van now. Not one of those cool mini-vans, but a real-deal gigantic beige van with like 17 seats or something. We even got a big lightning bolt sticker for it, but it’s been too cold in Boston for us to actually apply the scar to our van’s hood. We’re also really excited because for the first time ever, we’re touring with another band! Our friends Uncle Monsterface have puppets and monsters and animated prairie dogs and blow-up instruments, and if life has taught us anything it’s that puppets and monsters and animated prairie dogs and blow-up instruments are pretty fun.

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