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John Maus with Maraschino – Masonic Lodge, Los Angeles – Dec. 7, 2018

John Maus
12 December 2018

Photo by Cecilia Fonseca

John Maus performed two sold-out shows in Los Angeles last weekend, first at the Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever cemetery on Friday, before heading to The Regent Theater the following night. The dates were part of an ongoing North American tour that kicked off November 19 in Chicago.

Since the unexpected death of his brother and band-member Joseph Maus earlier this year, the singer has reverted to the solo performance style he was previously known for: a one-man primal scream catharsis with karaoke-style backing tracks.

John MausPhoto by Cecilia Fonseca

On his recordings, Maus sings in a detached drone that accentuates the dark humor of synth pop songs like “Dumpster Baby” and “Pets” (“your pets are gonna die…”). Live, the music is the same, but the vocals take on a new dimension as he screams and howls in an emotional frenzy. Any nuances that might have registered from the lyrics or melodies are lost in a thick sea of reverb and distortion.

It’s understandable that Maus would choose not to tour with another live band soon after his brother’s death. Still, it’s disappointing to see music that could easily be played by a live band (or semi-live with sequencers) reduced to a playlist of backing tracks.

John MausPhoto by Cecilia Fonseca

Whether we were witnessing a performance art piece, or an actual musical performance is up for debate; either way, there was no questioning the emotional intensity onstage.

Maus stood alone in front of a row of speakers, visibly pouring his heart and soul into the music. Fans near the front of the venue were responding to Maus and singing or yelling along with him from the beginning of the set. It took longer for the rest of the audience to warm up, but by the end of the night, the sweat-soaked singer had convinced most of the room to accompany his personal exorcism.

Piper Durabo of MaraschinoPhoto by Cecilia Fonseca

Maraschino opened the show with a fun set of 80s-inspired dream pop featuring Piper Durabo from Puro Instinct.