Photos By Clarissa Villondo and Ike Hayman, Words By Ross Bonaime
There’s so many reasons to see The Pizza Underground, yet on a (pizza) pie chart describing this, the smallest slice has got to be “for love of the music.” Of course, people came to see the ridiculously stupid humor in throwing pizza references haphazardly into the songs of The Velvet Underground, or see a train wreck, after rumors of eight minute long sets, or like myself, people who just wanted to see their childhood hero Macaulay Culkin in person. Considering how far this joke has gone and just how silly it is that Black Cat would seek out to see…this, The Pizza Underground is almost like a music comedy revue that’s pretty damn entertaining.
Taking the stage at 11, decked out in all black and shades, The Pizza Underground’s five members immediately passed out pizzas to the crowd because of course. They then start their covers of Velvet Underground songs that could’ve easily been written on the way to the show. Weird Al, they ain’t. So “All Tomorrow’s Parties” becomes “All the Pizza Parties.” “Stephanie Says” is now “Papa John Says.” If you’re not familiar with The Pizza Underground, basically take any proper noun in a Velvet Underground song, replace it with “slice” or “pizza” or “cheese” and guess what, you’ve got a Pizza Underground song.
Yet somehow, it doesn’t get old. The longer the joke goes, the funnier it actually gets. Percussion is done on pizza boxes and most of the instruments could be found in a kindergarten music class, with tambourines, kazoos and glockenspiels being thrown in for extra silliness. They even have a Andy Warhol lookalike (only because of his outfit and fake grey wig) running around changing slides and blowing up balloons that are never used.
About halfway through the barely hour long set, the focus opens beyond just The Pizza Underground and things start to really get weird. Culkin’s girlfriend Jordan Lane Price does a cover of “Perfect Day,” called “Pizza Day,” with Culkin doing some back-and-forth commenting and some of the creepiest reactions possible.
But that’s not weird enough. You also get the group’s “percussionist” singing a double entendre filled song about her “pizza box.” The show’s opener Toby Goodshank of The Moldy Peaches comes out even later in a Ziggy Stardust mask doing spastic dancing all around Culkin. But then the proverbial pizza hits the fan in terms of insanity. Out of nowhere, dancers come out to a screen with #PUSSYJOEL on it, which then turns into a rapid slide show of different kitten and their names set to “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” It may be the most amazing thing I see in a concert this year, and that’s before their Andy Warhol comes out dancing dressed like a ninja. This would’ve been worth the price of admission alone.
Continuing off this weird tangent is the return of Goodshank, this time as Kurt Cobained, who plays Nirvana songs in the past tense, with “Smelled Like Teen Spirit” and “All Apologized.” This has no longer become a Pizza Underground show, but rather a strange parade of half-thought-out parodies that could never contain themselves for a whole show. And it’s sort of brilliant.
Things get back to focus to Lou Reed with “Take a Bite of the Wild Slice” with all the colored girls now saying “chew chew chew chew chew chew” instead, and with an encore “Pizza Roll” that gives the history of how the pizza roll came into existence. Why not end on a pizza history lesson?
No surprise, The Pizza Underground brought cheesy goodness to the stage and I doubt I’ll ever hear The Velvet Underground the same way. Hell, I heard “Take a Walk on the Wild Side” today at a bookstore today and couldn’t help but “chew” along to the song. Hey man, I took a bite of the wild slice, and it was delicious.