“YOU’RE IN THE GNARBOOTS ZONE, NOW!” screamed Aaron Carnes, pulling his own face just inches between the face of his target, who was dismayed by the band's surrealist show. “NO AMOUNT OF FLIPPING ME OFF CAN CHANGE THAT!” While it initially seemed that Gnarboots’ particularly weird show was intended to assault the audience and cause discomfort, by the end of their 40 minute set at San Francisco’s DNA lounge on July 11, 2013, it had evolved into something else completely.
The show started with the band’s particularly horrifying “Cats in Pajamas” blaring across the speakers, while a man dressed in a robot suit crawled onto the stage like an addict searching for abandoned rocks. Finally, as the song came to a close, the robot pulled himself up to his feet and tore off the costume. He then claimed that he was Adam Davis of Gnarboots despite the fact that he clearly was not Adam Davis. The audience, who attended as part of a video game-related series of shows, were unaware of the band and did not understand the whomever was claiming to be Adam Davis was not Adam Davis. “Adam Davis” then began to rattle off a series of personal factoids about the real Adam Davis while genuine Gnarboot Aaron Carnes took the stage.
Carnes acted as though “Adam Davis” was bona fide, and the group plugged in their iPod. The set was entirely based off the unit and the duo broke into their classic muzak-ska version of “Mike Park.” However, instead of actually singing the lyrics, both Carnes and “Adam Davis” went back down into the audience and alternated singing “Mike Park” and screaming “THIS IS A SKA SHOW” at the top of their lungs, as if they were being tortured.
Clearly, the audience did not understand what was going on and the vast majority became hostile towards the group, insulting them, giving them the bird, and crossing their arms. Undeterred, Gnarboots continued to blast through minute-long versions of several of their weirdo electro-tunes, pushing the audience back, making it appear as if their sole mission was just to cause confusion and anger in the people watching them.
But then, when one of their weirdo-disorientating numbers ended with a muzak-coda of an excerpt of J. Geils’ Band's "Centerfold” some of the audience began to dance along with the band. Then, Gnarboots began to play their more danceable tunes, including the Kraftwerk-themed “Gnarboots Dance Party” which is built around a throbbing base and a Germanesque voice repeating the title ad infinitum. It seemed that some of the audience understood the concept being pushed and by the time the band arrived at the end of their set, after about 20 minutes of dance tunes, fifty percent of the audience was grooving along with the duo. Of course some of the audience, mostly males between the ages of 20-40, remained hostile, holding up their middle fingers for the entire set, despite the fact that many a-pretty girls were getting down to the strange beats.
Somehow Gnarboots were able to cause a completely hostile scene and then switch it around to the point where a good deal of the audience joined in on the strange dance set. Is this a message of unity through strangeness or is this an attempt at mind control through conformity?