There is only one man on stage. Sideburns pointed and long black
hair tucked under his even blacker hat, he steps up to what looks
like a plumber’s nightmare. A set of metal pipes twisting around
each other, wrapped in wires, strings, buttons and whatever else
might be found in a handyman’s junk drawer.
From a small jar in front of him, the man produces what appears
to be a violin bow. As the audience silently watches, he embraces
the pipe apparatus as if it was an upright bass and draws the bow
across a string that runs from top to bottom of the pipes that
stand nearly a foot above his head.
Instead of the anticipated grinding metal, the anxious ears of
the audience hear what appears to be a lone cello melody. Swaying
next to the pipes he plays a few bars of the classical piece and
before anyone in the audience can think to ask their neighbor what
is going on, the bow is dropped, a string is slapped and the real
show has begun.
The man onstage is Mike Silverman, more prominently known as
That 1 Guy.
Incorporating elements of funk, classical, techno and rock while
keeping a driving bass beat constant, Silverman’s show explores
myriad musical realms- all created through the pipes.
Throughout the show Silverman will slap, pluck and draw the
strings, while doing everything from playing the pipes with
drumsticks to strumming an old carpenters saw with a bow.
Silverman played mostly original pieces, but did incorporate
teases from “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” Black Sabbath’s “Iron
Man” and the theme to “I Dream of Genie.”
On some pieces Silverman accompanies the music vocally with a
dry monotone voice, which he said some compare to vocalist John
McCrea of the band Cake. Lyrically, Silverman’s words are difficult
to draw meaning from.
“I incorporate words in my songs not as much for their meanings,
but for their sound,” Silverman said. “I like the way words sound
and try to use them in my music rhythmically.”
While the music was half the show, the visual spectacle of
Silverman playing the pipes was the other half and during the last
song of the night, smoke poured out the top of the pipes to
accompany the music visually.
Hailing from the San Francisco Bay area, Silverman, 32,
constructed his pipes nearly 10 years ago and has been playing them
“I was trained as a classical bassist,” Silverman said. “As I
got more and more involved in music, I wanted to add sounds to my
music that the bass couldn’t produce. It just made sense for me to
create something that could.”
When asked to describe his unique style, Silverman said it was
“somewhere in between Frank Zappa and Count Basie.” Just exactly
where in between the two is another question.
Silverman’s act came to the Starlight Theater last Saturday as a
co-headliner to the acclaimed Drums and Tuba. The three-piece
jazz-funk-rock ensemble from Austin, Texas composed of drums, tuba
and guitar, kept the audience equally pleased throughout the
While music and demanding tour schedules may wear away at the
outside lives of traveling musicians, Silverman keeps some old
interests a priority.
“I’ll be back in the Bay area around the holidays,” Silverman
said. “I need to be back for the Lord of the Rings release.”