"SEATTLE? SEATTLE! We love Seattle!"
Blue Man Group Paramount Theater, 206-628-0888, $26$31 7 p.m. Sun., June 1
Matt Goldmanwho along with Chris Wink and Phil Stanton make up the usually silent Blue Man Groupis shouting.
While the trio's onstage shtick is cerulean, silent, and wrapped in PVC, once the paint is off, the real personalities and pipes emerge. At the moment, Goldman is ducking out from a tent and across the backstage lawn of the Coachella Music Festival in California. Under the dark cover of a late April sky, Blue Man Group will debut their new CD and stage show, The Complex. During the daylong wait, Goldman and his partners conduct back-to-back interviews. Seattle is the last.
"Seriously," continues a giddy Goldman, "after we announced the tour, Seattle responded right out of the gate! After two days, it was clear we were going to sell out!"
As far as performance art goes, Blue Man Group stands alone, having achieved an unparalleled level of commercial success. Beginning as buskers in New York's East Village in the late-'80s, the trio merged music, mime, and the tribal pummeling of homemade instruments, all punctuated by bald, blue-faced, wide-eyed starts, stops, and stares. They went from the street to an off-Broadway theater in 1991, spreading to Boston in 1995, Chicago in 1997, and in 2000, the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas. BMG was establishing permanent residencies and growing from a company of three to over 300, including some 30 Blue Man replicants.
As the group broadened their theater ventures, they also began doing televisionfirst late-night talk shows, then a series of intriguing commercials for Intel Pentium. Asked if the ads were about art or money, Goldman tackles the topic with a gingerly grace usually reserved for the stage.
"It was marketing," he says. "Specifically, we were going to open in Las Vegas, which no one expected, and we needed to be better known. Marketing is always a delicate dance with the devil, and every artist has his own comfort level, but regardless of what it is, you're always trying to get [your work] out there. Whether you're kissing Clear Channel's ass by doing their little Christmas concerts or you're singing in the backseat of a Jaguar, you have to do something.
"We'd gotten a lot of offers from, like, blue M&Ms, a lot of 'blue' things. But Intel was like, 'We don't have a product; we're inside a computer, so we need to project intangibles like innovation and intelligence and fun. We want to attract people that respond to that. We think that's what you do.' We appreciated that they looked beyond the facade."
"We also knew they would be seen all over the world," adds Wink. "If they weren't good, we'd regret it forever. So we worked as hard on those suckers as we did on making an album or going out on tour."
THE SET AT COACHELLA proves to be a huge, thunderous, communal convergence of performers, lights, video, rhythm, and a howling audiencea musical mushroom cloud billowing into the dark desert night. Featuring notables like Dave Matthews, Rob Swift, Tracy Bonham, and the band Venus Hum, The Complex album offers a mix of original music, reworked versions of the psychedelic morsel "White Rabbit," Donna Summer's disco evocation "I Feel Love," and, of course, the sticky blue glue of BMG's antics.
"The project is hugely collaborative," Goldman says. "We have this saying that we don't care where an idea comes from, we just want to like it."
"That's our strength," adds Wink. "I read something the other day that said a group is almost always smarter than any one individual in the group. That's how you know it's really working."
So when the group started, had they expected it to work this well?
"When we started, we just wanted to be blue and bald in the East Village," grins Goldman. "We didn't expect anything."