Photos and review by Ken Jones 

On Saturday, June 3, 2023, I had the distinct pleasure of completing my Maynard James Keenan trifecta. At the Wind Creek Event Center in Bethlehem Pa., at exactly 9:15 p.m. as advertised, Puscifer hit the stage.  Well, their video introduction began anyway.  With a very strict no-cellphone policy, a video of Maynard as his newest alter ego, Dick Merkin, explained how anyone caught using a cellphone to take photos or video would become the secret ingredient in Spam.  

While the crowd was still laughing from the video, even though it was quite serious in nature, the band began their entrance. All the members received huge cheers, but when Maynard joined them, it was just unbelievably loud. Puscifer jumped into “Bread and Circus” from their 2020 album “Existential Reckoning.” While the song isn’t a rocker – it’s a keyboard-driven electronica tune – it still managed to get the crowd going. I’m pretty sure Maynard and co-lead singer Corina Round could literally sing the phone book and you would have been more than happy to hear it.  

The deepness of the songs one would hear from Puscifer these days denies reason. If you’re lucky enough to remember when they began, Puscifer was more of a comedy troupe than a band. Between actual comedy sketches and ridiculously funny songs, Maynard seemed to be taking a creative break from making hard-rocking, progressive music with Tool. I couldn’t blame him, as some of that stuff, while incredible, may be the darkest content one could listen to. Puscifer, on the other hand, was an outlet for his humorous thoughts and ideas. Originally the only permanent member of the band was Maynard himself, surrounded by guest musicians that would vary from show to show. Puscifer now has a core membership with the incredible multi-instrumentalist and exceptional vocal skills of Corina Round and fellow multi-instrumentalist. Mat Mitchell. Corina and Mat have been full members of the band since the release of their first full length album, “Conditions of my Parole.”  

The concept of the show revolves around Agent Dick Merkin and the “men in black” group. Videos between sets showed Agent Merkin explaining to the audience about myriad conspiracy stories from aliens to Hollywood elite cloning. While humorous, sometimes it made a lot of sense. When the opener “Bread and Circus” came to an end, Agent Merkin introduced the members of the band and bantered with the crowd briefly. Merkin appears to always be a bit intoxicated or just stupid. When he tried to welcome the crowd, he forgot the name of the town. When Corina’s character told him where they were, he went into a short confused rant about how Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which made Corina break character from her tightly wound and super serious agent and laugh uncontrollably. They then launched into “Postulous,” also from “Existential Reckoning.”  The show is based on “Existential Reckoning” and revolves around that concept album’s theme. Even with older tracks, the band stayed in character for most of the show.  

 As the two songs I was allowed to photograph were coming to an end, a man jumped the barricade into the photo pit and began using his cellphone to record the performance, which we’d been warned not to do, multiple times. It was clearly a part of the show, as the man was dressed as Maynard’s classic character, Billy Dee. There was some interaction between Billy and Merkin, as Merkin ordered a very alien-looking agent to remove Billy Dee from the photo pit.  As the agent lifted Billy over his shoulder and removed him off stage, my time in the photo pit was coming to a close and I would have to rush outside to return my gear to the car and hurry back to see the rest of the show.  Mine and my wife’s favorite Puscifer song began to play as I was heading out. “Fake Affront,” also from “E.R,”  was the first up-tempo song that they played. I was pretty bummed that I had to leave, but I took my time to at least hear most of this incredible song.  While I was gone to the car, I missed two more songs, “Grey Area” and “Theorem,” again from “E.R.”

I made it back in time for them to start UPGrade, in which Maynard and Corina performed on a riser high above the drum set, where they spent a large part of the show. The light show was so complimentary to the electronica sound that the album “Existential Reckoning” had adopted. Not often do you hear a concept album at all these days, but even if you do, it’s very rare to see it performed live to such a degree. It was also played nearly in the correct order as the album, except one track being saved for the end of the night and a few stuck in from the band’s past catalog.  

Pulling from the album “Money Shot,” the band launched into one of their crowd favorites, “The Remedy.” Definitely the biggest crowd participation song, where everyone who’s had to deal with ignorant fools or trolls sung in unison to the majority of the song.  Maynard led them into belting out the power part of the song, as the lights came up and the adoring crowd sang as one, “You speak like someone who has never been smacked in the fuckin’ mouth/ That’s OK we have the remedy/ You speak like someone who has never been… knocked the fuck on out /  But we have your remedy.” 

Returning to “E.R,” the band then played “Personal Prometheus,” a haunting track where Maynard and Corina’s blending of vocals makes you aware how both of them may be the greatest voices on the planet, followed by “A Singularity,” which while severely electronic in nature for most of the song, builds in crescendo to a beautiful song about a devastating loss.  

Exiting from “E.R.” for a bit, Puscifer played two of their older tracks, “Horizons,” off “Conditions of my Parole,” and an amazing remix of their classic “The Humbling River,” from “C Is For (Please Insert Sophomoric Genitalia Reference Here).” “Humbling River” is the first song that really turned me on to Puscifer. While I’d been aware of them, I thought they were just a comedy troupe, as all I’d seen was the infamous live version of “My Cuntry Boner.” So imagine, years later, I stumble upon this gorgeous song of defeat, but still yearning to try to win. I was shocked at how different the band had become and instantly became obsessed with all things Puscifer. Nothing better than even more lyrics and the amazing vocal talents of Maynard James Keenan.  

The encore, which would be better described as a third set, consisted of “Bullet Train to Iowa,” “Vagina Mine,” “Flippant,” “Conditions of My Parole” and finally “Bedlamite.” For the encore, Maynard had dropped his guise as Agent Merkin and was now in his classic Billy Dee character. Corina had dropped out of character as well, but was just herself. The rest of the band, who never changed outfits, seemed to be much more outgoing now and less robotic than they had been the entire show, as for the most part, the concept was nearly over. They were just being a band now and seemed to be enjoying themselves much more than the rest of the show as they got to rock out appropriately.  

For the final song, Billy Dee told us that we could finally take out our devices and record. It had been quite a joy to watch this unique concept show without annoying phones in the way the entire time, but it was also nice to get a small recorded memory of such an incredible event. Billy read an uplifting letter from “Maynard,” which called for us to perform acts of kindness to others and leave wherever or whatever we do in a better state than we found it. He also wished that for the last two hours at least, we’d forgotten about the craziness of the world today, which the crowd responded with a huge roar.  Suddenly, Gunnar Olsen began the drum intro to “Bedlamite.” The song is one of the few extremely uplifting songs that I’ve heard from any of Maynard’s projects. We all sang along to the chorus “It’s gonna be alright/ Everything will be alright.”  While I sometimes doubt that to be true, for at least the last two hours, I was pretty convinced that all was right in the world.  




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