Who: Together at Last 2019 Tour: TWRP, The Protomen
Where: Baltimore Soundstage, Baltimore, Maryland
When: July 24, 2019
Two of the galaxy’s most legendary science-fiction rock bands, TupperWare Remix Party (TWRP) and The Protomen, joined forces to play a string of sold-out, co-headlining dates on their “Together at Last 2019 Tour” this July. Baltimore’s show, which took place in a city where both bands built significant portions of their fanbases in their early days, became a night of nostalgic reflection and sweaty celebration for the performers and fans alike!
First up for the 1,000 fans inside Baltimore Soundstage, after several minutes of ominous synth ambiance played over the venue’s speakers, were The Protomen. A being in a black jumpsuit, black gloves, and a silver, geometric facial contraption took to the stage. This being, K.I.L.R.O.Y., commanded the crowd with a daring-yet-muffled voice in a rousing speech that set the tone of the loosely-Mega Man-inspired dystopian story that the entire band would later tell.
At the end, he put up a fist and shouted, “Are you gonna fight with us this evening, Baltimore? Fists in the air!” 500 fists zoomed high into the air, while the remaining 500 reluctantly followed behind in mild confusion. (While both bands have diverse bases, TWRP’s fanbase leans slightly younger than The Protomen’s group of veteran 16-year “Resistance” fighters!)
This awkward divide didn’t last for long, however. The rest of the rock-opera octet made their way on stage for the quiet introduction to “Hope Rides Alone.” Lead vocalist/keyboardist Raul Panther III took the floor after K.I.L.R.O.Y. plugged in his red helmet and shined its dark visor.
“We are here to tell you a story,” Panther stated. The band’s twelve-song set weaved a cyberpunk tale of evil robots, corruption, and battles for justice. Punk riffs, acoustic breakdowns, synth distortion, swing, and soaring vocal harmonies were showcased across the evening, guaranteeing that no two songs sounded alike.
Panther occasionally handed main vocal duties to singer Gambler Kirkdouglas. Her dramatic belts supercharged the power ballad/dance bop “Calling Out,” and brought new energy to a cover of Raf’s “Self Control.” Gambler’s duets with Panther on “Father of Death” and harmonies on “This City Made Us” brought humanity to the plight of the overarching story’s robotic heroes.
Drummer Reanimator Lovejoy bashed the screams of the Resistance into every strike of the skins! Bassist Murphy Weller and keyboardist Commander B. Hawkins, when not manning their ordinary stations, filled out the percussion section with precision. Sir Robert Bakker and Shock Magnum dueled on lead and rhythm guitars, making for guitar solos that left the crowd with whiplash!
The highlights of the set were the band’s hallmark numbers of “Light Up the Night” and set closer “Due Vendetta.” The former took on the spirit of an ‘80s action movie anthem, while the latter stayed truer to The Protomen’s chiptune and punk roots from their Act I days. This outrageous octet left the stage with the crowd sweating and hungry for more!
The night’s second course was a full helping of funk, synth, and dance from Space Canadian quartet known as TWRP. Drummer Havve Hogan, bassist Commander Meouch, and guitarist Lord Phobos strolled onto the stage one-by-one. They each jumped into their parts for “Back in Town,” the instrumental intro track to their new LP, Return to Wherever, leaving ample room on-stage for lead talkbox-vocalist/keytarist Doctor Sung to finally roll on. Literally. With a self-balancing 2-wheeled hoverboard.
Sung greeted the crowd by gliding to his synth station and singing into his talkbox, “Baltimore! TWRP. Is. Back-In-Town!” The audience shrieked in delight, prompting the band to transition right into Track #2 off of Return to Wherever, the curve-positive “Generous Dimensions.” The ferocious duo of Meouch and Phobos rocked side-to-side to Havve’s beat, while Sung danced like a spring-loaded breaker. At just the right moments, he also gave loving air-humps to his synthesizers.
Themes of body positivity, as well as good vibes in-general, were sprinkled like disco dust throughout the tasty setlist. After a string of songs celebrating friendship, one’s own “Hidden Potential,” and beauty, inside and out, the blue-and-black-armored lion on the bass began to breathe heavy! “There was so much positivity just now,” Meouch said into the mic, “oh, man… I feel like I’m gonna puke!”
The cone-headed Doctor hovered over to his feline friend and patted him on the shoulder. “Positivity overload” was Sung’s diagnosis, and the only known treatment was… “more positivity?” (The good Doctor said it with a shrug, but he soon reassured us that it was the best option.) The treatment seemed to work, as Meouch made a full recovery by the end of “Life Party!”
The standout moment of TWRP’s solo set was “A Journey Through Time,” a 12-minute, 9-track medley of highlights from the band’s rapidly-growing back catalog. Doctor Sung high-kicked it off, shouting into the faces of the front row, “It’s gonna blow your fucking mind!” Songs like “ICQ” and “Food Bar” suddenly were blending seamlessly into each other. The “Prelude” from the band’s 2012 EP, The Device, became re-animated when it was made into an intro for the Mighty-Morphin’-Power-Rangers-esque theme song, “Groove Crusaders.”
The room was in awe with each new layer of song, but the most surprising layer was one that was removed by a brave fan in the center of the pit! The chorus of “The No Pants Dance,” “I like the way that you dance / when you dance / like the way that you dance / when you dance / with your pants off,” finished as a pair of blue jeans were suddenly tossed on-stage.
After the medley’s finale, Sung glided over to Meouch with the pants in-hand, inspecting the tags. “I think these are size… 32? 36?” Sung questioned, as Meouch chimed in with an answer: “Ah, pants for a 32-to-36-year-old man!” (The band then made a brief attempt at selling the jeans at the merch stand for $500, but there were no takers.)
Together at Last…
Two sets of delicious synth-rock were ringing in the audience’s ears by the end… but there was something missing. Luckily, that something didn’t stay missing for long.
TWRP brought back all eight members of The Protomen to the stage for the song that was the genesis behind the entire “Together at Last” Tour: 2018’s “Phantom Racer,” performed as it was intended to be heard. This rare performance of the two bands’ Kenny Loggins-style ode to the 1986 supernatural vs. speedway B-movie, The Wraith, was worth the ticket price on its own. Doctor Sung played the part of the car race’s announcer as Panther sang his heart out as the deadly Phantom Racer. Gambler lead the choir of audience members, making the call-and-response chant of “FASTER!” in the chorus feel like it truly meant life-or-death!
Just like how the Phantom Racer was “born to race” and would “die to win,” the dozen total performers within The Protomen and TWRP heard fate’s call. They, too, were destined to fight together, and in Baltimore, they won. The hearts of the 1,000 sweaty, sore-throated fans in attendance were now theirs for the rest of time.
Post, interview, and photo by Elizabeth Owens
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