People who came out for Puddles Pity Party last weekend were in for a sweet treat: Laughter.
Puddles Pity Party was a puddle of cuddles and fearless fun at The Soiled Dove Underground in Denver last Friday night. The 6’ 8” baritone “sad clown with the golden voice” started off his show by doing something that I used to do when I was 9 years old: stuff as many pieces of gum as humanly possible into one's mouth to make a super gumball. After doing so to quiet giggles from the crowd, he set the gumwad aside and entered into audience territory. Breaking the fourth wall to pull a woman onstage, he placed her hand over her heart and motioned for all patrons to follow suit. He then pulled out a small American flag, put his own hand over his heart, and sang the most powerful rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” that I’ve heard in a long time. Here it’s worth noting that a number of showgoers were wearing safety pins over their hearts, a trend that started this week after President-elect Donald Trump won the electoral college in last week’s election. Only about half of the crowd held their hands over their hearts as Puddles sang on, but all cheered in support of the giant clown as he concluded the tune.
Mike Greer, the man behind Puddles, didn’t need a microphone Friday night. His voice would have carried even without that support. He’s that good. In fact, microphones were more visibly used as props throughout the evening than anything else. He followed up the national anthem with a cover of “Stressed Out” by Twenty One Pilots, where he pivoted around the mic stand, making good use of the stage. Throughout the evening, Greer was very in-tune with the audience, demonstrating his strong improv skills by bringing patrons onstage for unpredictable covers and antics.
Puddles brought the room together with songs about being an outsider and the feelings that conjures up, like Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself.” The backing instrumentals were pre-recorded and supported him, which he playfully highlighted when pretending to strum on a white slab of wood meant to look like a toy guitar. Puddles could have gone through the entire performance a capella if he had to. On Coldplay’s “Fix You,” he broke into “tears stream down your face” with scenes of robots malfunctioning and falling down, which made the breaking point in a sad song funny. It was moments like these that Puddles really charmed.
On Puddles’ cover of ELO’s “Telephone Line,” he alternated between singing into a telephone with vocal high-pass and distortion, and singing into a regular mic, continuing to use the telephone effect as he segued into a growly verse-chorus of “Hello” by Adele. The late Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” was one of his most powerful covers, no doubt. When he pulled the microphone away from his mouth and was able to bring the room with him on his journey to the great crescendo, my earlier hypothesis on the no mic necessary was proven true.
Watch Puddles' viral cover of Lorde's "Royals":
His interaction with the audience in the cover he’s most known for, “Royals” by Lorde, was unlike anything I’ve ever seen an artist do in a performance space. With a sepia filtered projection of the musicians on his breakout YouTube video, he again broke down the fourth wall yet again. He took phones from audience members trying to capture the moment, and gave their phones to other audience members trying to capture the moment. What resulted was a tangle of people who had to retrieve their phones from each other; a web of connection.
Puddles’ Queen and the late David Bowie’s “Under Pressure” cover was another sweet moment. He brought a man from the crowd onstage to give him mini cupcakes and coffee from a french press while the phrase “stressed spelled backwards is desserts” projected on the three screens behind him. And that’s when he started playing with the giant gumball again, to the crowd’s distaste, followed by a roaring cover of Styx’s “Come Sail Away.” It was this song which concluded a show that brought people together for genuine laughter during what has been a hard time for many people in this country.
All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.