Some scion of the Baltimore arts scene once argued that the only thing the city’s diverse group of headline-grabbing artists have in common is exuberance. If that’s the case, then multi-disciplinary performer Ed Schrader is the apex of Baltimore art — his unbounded, neurotic energy is a manifesto unto itself, making him one of the city’s most bizarrely compelling artists. And he’s bringing his sporadically staged talk show to the Metro Gallery tonight.
The Ed Schrader Show is something of a high-functioning fiasco, deriving much of its entertainment not from the scripted jokes per se but from its host’s surfeit of manic energy — and the way his verbose, indulgent rhapsodies play out against his onstage collaborators, including sometimes obstinate announcer Connor Kizer and the Ed Schrader Show House Band.
For the most of the show’s history, the band has been haphazard by design. There were no mandatory practices (if there were practices at all); members simply showed up with their instruments the night of the performance. Taking Ed’s penchant for chaos as a signal to let ‘er rip, there were no songs. When Ed introduced a segment a racket would begin. About 10 seconds later the racket would stop.
Sometime recently Dan Deacon took over as bandleader, and with his guidance came a new coherence. I spoke with Dan and bass player Devlin Rice (the other half of Ed Schrader’s Music Beat) about the present incarnation of the group and what’s cooking for tonight’s show. We’ll blame Ed’s contagious insanity for their inability to answer most of these questions seriously.
When the show first started, the house band barely had a theme song — someone would just sort of half-shout “Ed Schrader Show! Ed Schrader Show!” to kick it off. How has the format and philosophy of the group changed?
Devlin Rice: Philosophically, I would say there is more of a focused vision now than in the halcyon days of the band. We custom build each song to fit each occasion, bit, and general mood. But don’t get it twisted, we are still just a bunch of goofs.
The arrangement of the band is basically built around who is, as you say, “down to clown.” Dan “Ha Ha” Deacon wanted to have a more traditional talk show band for this specific show, and that’s what we have in players like Gerrit “Gotta Shred” Welmers, Jeremy “Drum Dream” Hyman, and Martin “Ladies Think I’m Saxy” Kasey. This team is gonna win the Super Bowl.
Dan Deacon: It’s a lot of screwing around, but compared to the old days it’s like military-style band.
Dan, are you the band leader?
DD: I think so. Maybe not so much with this current lineup. We are more of a band now than ever before. My role as band leader is putting together the band members and arranging the practice.
How practiced is the band this time around?
DR: We’ve had one good one. Make what you will of that.
DD: We’ve been mentally preparing for weeks. We had our first rehearsal [Tuesday] and wrote seven killer songs.
While we only ever have one practice, since the songs are only 25 seconds long, we can write and practice them pretty heavily. We also recorded all of them for reference, and we will be selling one CD-R of all seven hits for $25.
Any classic house band you’re trying to emulate?
DD: Sort of a mixture between the Saturday Night Live Band, the Muppets band and a junior high school band just getting into “experimental rock.”
But what’s your relationship to Ed? Supportive? Antagonistic?
DD: Totally supportive. I love the show and love Ed. I have at times yelled out for him to stay focused, and maybe I shouldn’t. If this were “The Larry Sanders Show,” I’d be the Artie character in the time leading up to the show, but in actual show I’m totally not that person at all.
In the end the show is Ed’s vision and Ed’s world 100 percent. The audience goes to see Ed and the magic that is The Ed Schrader Show; I’m just there to add to that vision.
Last night at practice we were listening to the recording for the “Dumps the Clown” sketch of a whole other band formed for this show, just for that sketch, and I thought how the insane s— I asked people to do for Whartscape pales in comparison to the totally insane s— Ed asks of people for The Ed Schrader Show. It’s amazing.
What can attendees expect tonight?
DR: Absolute, unforgiving hilarity. It will be coming at you from all sides, and your sides will split, from laughter. There is a chance you will have a vague sense of embarrassment for all involved, but that’s what makes the show a spectacle.
DD: I have no f—ing idea.
The Ed Schrader Show — with guests Matmos and DDM — will come to the Metro Gallery January 10 at 7 p.m. Admission is $7.
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