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Flagrante Delicto, On And Off Superfast, Bark Bark Bark

Vaudeville Cabaret, Sunday, Jan. 28

There's nothing scarier to an aging hipster than to be chatting up some females at a live show, goofing on a band with clever, sarcastic comments, only to get a little too obscure in a reference, prompting blank stares preceded by the question, "So, how old are you, anyway?" Well, that, and creepy clowns. This past Sunday, Vaudeville Cabaret offered the opportunity to confront both of those fears.

Bark Bark Bark has been an ongoing one-man project for Tucson's Jacob Cooper since 2002. Cooper's refined his previously sketchy grab-bag of arty noise-rock to something he's always seemingly resisted being: listenable.

Cooper, 20, is like our own budding Trent Reznor--he sings, writes the songs, plays all the instruments and goes through band members like tissue paper. On Sunday, a three-piece BBB included a live drummer, a guitarist and Cooper singing (now, in tune!) songs from BBB's upcoming release, Haunts--which I surmise to be the soundtrack to a remake of Tron, starring The Fall's Mark E. Smith, trapped in an upright Mr. Pac-Man, armed only with a guitar.

L.A.'s On and Off Superfast spent more time plugging in its Christmas light display than performing, only playing about 15 minutes of its Nintendo Entertainment System-inspired analog-synth electro-punk. Hack review: Imagine going on a road trip with the Mario Brothers to Castlevania with that elfin, withered Lord of the Rings character Gollum sitting in the back, screaming at you through an effects-laden megaphone. That's OAOS.

(Off topic: How can building codes, in a city with this many Los Betos, allow a business to not have a bathroom with a private stall or a lock on the door? Rio Nuevo board members, are you listening?)

I had earlier described closers Flagrante Delicto as "Tom Waits meets the Insane Clown Posse." I was partially correct. They did bring a clown dancer, though I also heard similarities to Marilyn Manson, Manu Chao and serial killer/clownartist John Wayne Gacy. When not singing about clown sex and carousels, FD shifted gears with spacey electronic-enhanced instrumentals, sounding like the Secret Machines, Radiohead and even Rush. Oddly, in one tune, the group quoted Oingo Boingo's "Weird Science."

As I excitedly pointed out the reference to a girl at the bar who was earlier doing some odd mirror-dance with her friend, I got the response I feared the most. "Oingo Boingo? Is that the name of some clown?" You can guess what the next question was.

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