Words and Photos by Brian O’Neill
It’s difficult to find appropriate acts to play with Amigo the Devil. He has been known to grouse with a bewildered shrug about how he often gets thrown onto metal bills. In Philadelphia, there were no such difficulties: Local opener Frankly Lost is possibly the perfect pairing.
The foursome plays songs about cannibalism (“Long Pig”), mouse piss (“Mouse & I”), and in set closer “Web MD,” self-medication gone tragically wrong. In “Death Metal Band” they played the second best acoustic-guitar-based song about death metal ever penned paling only in comparison to “The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton” by Mountain Goats (and ensuring a metal connection to the headliner after all!).
They obviously grew up on hometown heroes Dead Milkmen and somehow decided that was way too complex, so they churn out “anti-folk” instead. It was a damn good decision, and not just for this evening.
Although last year’s Everything is Fine was famously produced by Ross Robinson of Korn and Slipknot fame who along with Rage Against The Machine drummer Brad Wilk fleshed out his sound, Amigo The Devil, aka Danny Kiranos, had no problem fitting on the small stage – he performed completely alone, backed by either an acoustic guitar or banjo that he, himself, played.
The minimalism was synchronous. It harkened back to his early EPs where he honed his Amigo persona with only his guitar singing love songs as if they were written by history’s most notorious serial killers interspersed with ditties about spousal abuse. But it was oddly enough more fitting for material off the new album. Despite their genesis in a more collaborative process and with added instrumentation, the lyrics are considerably more personal, and the stark imagery benefitted from a stark presentation.
Stark doesn’t mean stiff or overly serious, however.
“This is a new one we’ve been working on. It’s called ‘Old Town Road,’” he joked at one point, and the joke became a recurring theme. He even finally played a little bit of it, but not without pointing out that it was the same chords as Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats” and played some of that, which was kind of mind-blowing.
While singing the more gut-wrenching material, his eyes bugged out, and he seems to barely control his emotions. Then he composes himself and cracks wise making self-deprecating comments with a gregarious laugh and wink.
During the less personal material, he’s making the jokes during the songs themselves. It doesn’t matter that “Dahmer Does Hollywood” is a ditty about a man who killed and dismembered seventeen people. That didn’t stop him from joking around the entire time he was playing it.
“I Hope Your Husband Dies” continued the theme of unlikely singalongs. Imagine a crowd boisterously repeating that song title like at a rollicking Irish bar or an old fashioned Irish wake. Either way, alcohol was involved and welcome.
Imagine that crowd toasting the idea that “this life is a joke, and death is the punchline” during “Hungover in Jonestown.” Kiranos told a story about the instigator of the song, and the guy actually did die! Amigo said how much he learned from watching his friend deal with it and turned one of the funniest songs into the most personal which sums up Amigo the Devil pretty perfectly.
Amigo the Devil is the kind of guy who laughs at weddings and laughs even harder at funerals. Now that he lets a lot more of himself out there, he invites you to laugh with him. It’s the proper thing to do even if sometimes you’re doing so through tears.