Frank Turner Dragged Me to the Weirdest Show I've Ever Been to
Sometimes you end up at interactive dance parties in Brooklyn basements with cat people.
Photo via Kristopher Johnson at Deep Tanks
A bearded man in a gold g-string and yellow muumuu is adjusting the horns on his Chicago Bulls hat. On a couch in the corner of the room, a very large, very flamboyant man named Dusty is introducing me to “his love,” Sparkles. At a makeshift bar under the stairs, a bartender is selling cans of Budweiser, shots in Dixie cups, and for some reason, makeup kits. And a man across the room in Black Swan makeup has been staring directly into my soul with an unbroken gaze for nearly ten minutes. His name is Boy Wolf. In my lifetime, I’ve seen Gwar devour celebrities on stage, I’ve seen Converge play in my friend’s basement, and I’ve seen Bad Luck 13 Riot Extravaganza nearly burn down a sports complex. But this is the weirdest fucking show I’ve ever been to. And I was dragged here by, of all people, Frank Turner.
Frank had the day off from tour and had been telling me all afternoon about this band Koo Koo Kanga Roo and how I had to see them. He described them as two very positive, energetic guys who play kids’ songs, but for adults. They are the supporting band on his national tour. “We’ve done 39 dates so far, I’ve watched them all 39 times,” he told me. “People don’t know what to make of them. They’ve booed them. I don’t care. I love them.”
This, by the way, is the same Frank Turner who has been taking shit from punx for years—and not giving much of a shit, by the way—for playing Wembley Stadium and the opening ceremony of the Olympics. The same Frank Turner who’s sold hundreds of thousands of records for Interscope and Epitaph. That Frank Turner. And here he is on a random Tuesday night in Brooklyn, standing in a basement he’s an inch too tall for, as giddy as a schoolgirl to see a band called Koo Koo Kanga Roo.
I’m not even quite sure where I am. Frank shoved me into a cab and gave the driver the address of some shithole in Bushwick. He might as well have said, "Take us to a fever dream, my good man. 123 Insanity Place and step on it." Frank covers me at the door, giving the door girl a $20 and telling her to just keep the change. He is in such a damn rush to get to the basement that he can't be bothered with it.
We go downstairs and there are only 50 people in the room but it seems like a lot more because every single person is a character. It’s like being on the set of an R-rated Muppets movie. Aside from Dusty, Sparkles, and of course, Boy Wolf, I also meet a man named Chris who has a 2000s-era Boy George look to him. I am checking out the back of the room where there is a photobooth. I hear Chris say, “Oh all the straight boys have discovered they look sexy under the bright lights, huh?" Frank and I are the straight boys. The next thing I know, Frank and I are shirtless and lifting Chris up for a photo. Where am I?
A girl named Mickey, whose pink hat with a unicorn horn matches her hair, barges into the photobooth to make sure we’ve gotten our gifts. My gift is a sealed manila envelope with three lines drawn in marker on it. It contains the following three items: a folded 8.5 x 11” sheet of paper with a poem about unicorns on it, including the line, “Hunt the Unicorn Always Fail”; a photo of an obese man’s hairy man FUPA; and a vanilla chocolate-covered cherry in a clear plastic box. There is no chance in hell I am taking it out of the box, let alone eating it. But thank you, Mickey. But now it’s time to put our clothes back on because Koo Koo Kanga Roo is about to go on and Frank can’t miss a minute of it.
Koo Koo Kanga Roo take the stage—well, the floor—to a Jock Jam you’ve probably heard a million times. The one that goes, “Y’all ready for this?!” The audience is not ready for this, Frank tells me. “All these people in here don't know. They have no idea.” The band is exactly as Frank described—two enthusiastic guys wearing children’s backpacks and black t-shirts that say “KOO” in gold letters. They load up their music from their iPod and launch into their first song, “I want a PB & J but I want NO CRUSTS! I said I want NO CRUSTS! I said I want NO CRUSTS!” The crowd is going nuts. A guy with a giant cat head mask named Artcat is spinning around while a couple in tacky Christmas sweaters is doing a dance move called The Crust Slicer.
For the next half hour, the crowd—including Frank (actually, especially Frank)—collectively loses its mind to Koo Koo Kanga Roo’s sing along/dance along songs about pirates, robots, and cat parties. “This song is about bees!” shouts Neil, one half of Koo Koo. “If you're allergic, leave the room because at the end of the song is when the bees are released,” says Bryan, Koo Koo’s other half. At this point, I genuinely can’t tell if he’s kidding. Later, Bryan asks the crowd, “This song’s about dinosaurs! Does anyone like dinosaurs here?” “YES! ME! I DO!” shouts Frank, who has been drinking tequila.
No Instagram filter could do this insanity justice.
Koo Koo Kanga Roo’s closer is a song called “Awesome Rainbows” which spends the better part of three minutes trying to get to the bottom of what everyone’s favorite color is. “Whose favorite color is blue?” The audience responds: “WHOOO!” “Whose favorite color is green?” The audience responds: “WHOOO!” After three minutes of this, it’s determined that the audience thinks that every fucking color is awesome. Hence the title, “Awesome Rainbow.” Koo Koo then finish off the song and their set by breaking out—as if from nowhere—a giant rainbow parachute that is wider than the room itself and drape it over the crowd. Everyone huddles under it in a big multi-colored pile—Bryan, Neil, Dusty, Sparkles, Artcat, Boy Wolf, Mickey, Frank, and I.
After the parachute is removed from our heads, Frank grabs my shoulders, looks me dead in the eyes, and says the following as if he’s never believed something so firmly in his entire life: “They’re the greatest band in the whole world.”
Yeah, Frank. They kind of are.
Dan Ozzi lives a weird life. Follow him on Twitter - @danozzi
Left to right: Bryan of Koo Koo Kanga Roo, Erin Smolinski, Frank Turner, Dan Ozzi.