Trunk, Hats, Uke, and Pan

The Slomski Brothers meld music, comedy, and a little bit of vaudeville. They were the funniest act on my stage this weekend, and I re-learned a valuable lesson from them: Performer energy is far, far more important than any conceivable audio or technical need.

Okay, I didn’t learn it from them; I’ve known this for a while, but the Brothers are a good example of the truism. Let’s start with their mic stand. They use a pair of mics on a two-headed forked stand — with two cup holders — attached to a single, circular, weighted base. These same mics are plugged into a Y adapter that leads to a single channel on the mixing board.

At first glance, this makes little sense. The engineer at the board won’t be able to shape Mark and Phil’s voices separately. And the stand forces them to stand together, shoulder-to-shoulder in front of their steamer trunk.

That trunk is on-edge, the open side facing away from the audience. (The trunk has its own entry on their “meet” page.) It’s almost a living part of the act; Phil will stand in between Trunk Slomski, behind his steel drum on a stand (“Pan Slomski”), occasionally reaching behind it for one item or another.

The two brothers haven’t been working together on stage all that long, you wouldn’t know it to watch them; they’re talking to the audience as if it were a drinking buddy. That trunk almost *hands* them stuff, in what seems as if it’d be an awkward situation to get at anything. Which brings me back to that funky mic stand. (Perhaps the stand is “Forked Slomski”.)

The two brothers seem like they’re reading each others’ minds, despite the fact that they agree on very little at all. They create the impression that their lives are spent in a fog of traveling and drinking. They stand in a rigid stage placement that doesn’t come across as awkward at all. Their act is all about a routine that might (or might not) be meticulously rehearsed until it’s tight and seamless, but maybe (just maybe) this is them just being themselves. The banter and their stopping songs in the middle just where they’re funny is all completely spontaneous. Having been in the situation where performers are almost being telepathic, picking up on cues invisible to everyone else, it’s not only possible, I’d guess it’s likely.

If I’m wrong and this is all tightly rehearsed… well. That’s even more impressive.

Their act is all about Mark and Phil arguing at each other into their microphones, and confusing the audience in a hilarious way. Yeah, different channels on their voices would be nice, but not needed; there’s no need to separate them out and make them more comprehensible when they’re talking over each other, and it would in fact harm the act.

Go and see them. I spent much of their set with one hand riding the mixing board and the other wiping tears from under my glasses.

(Oh, yeah, to anyone working sound for them: Mark’s ukulele sounds best when you pull the midrange down a bit, and Phil’s pan is fucking loud. Treat it like the lead instrument and work around it and you’ll be good.)

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