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The Pizza Underground @ PhilaMOCA.

January 28, 2014

PizzaUnderground07Text by Chris Diehl. Images by Arin Sang-urai, courtesy of PhilaMOCA.

The atmosphere buzzed with static excitement as the PhilaMOCA crowd’s insatiable appetite grew painful. They chilled comfortably inside the warm depths of Diplo’s former home, the repurposed mausoleum on 12th near Spring Garden, with Pabst Blue Ribbon and Narraganset in hand.

Some danced, others lay slack against the walls but all conversed about a peculiar feeling that brought them out that night. Not Kevin McCallister, Richie Rich, nor any of the childhood relics he has etched into everyone’s memory, but Macaulay Culkin and The Pizza Underground, about to play a full set of Velvet Underground covers layered in pizza referential humor.

Iridescent projections brought the bleak walls to life with ’90s neon colored nostalgia such as the Ninja Turtles and Street Sharks, emphasizing how integral pizza was to a Generation Y childhood.

The night began with local “thrash delivery experts” Pizza Face, who melted faces with tunes such as “Calzone Killzone,” and turned up the heat with a hammerhead shark mascot moshing through the crowd. Unperturbed by the subdued attitude of a crowd looking for Lou Reed covers, this foursome delivered a beer bong straight into their most excited fan’s stomach then finished out their set.

The intermittent lead up to the main event drew an audible tension as jostled fans questioned the bizarre yet palpable silence. Minutes passed and then, dressed in black clothes and black shades – the homage to Lou Reed – Pizza Underground emerged from the dark confines of the mausoleum. Out walked Culkin with dark glasses and leather jacket, sporting blonde facial scruff and slicked back hair in a top knot, followed by Matt Colbourn, Phoebe Kreutz, Austin Kilham and Deenah Vollmer.

Songs covered included “Take A Bite of the Wild Slice,” “Papa John Says,” “I’m Waiting for Delivery Man” and some non-Underground songs such as “Cheese Days,” but close enough. These rockers nailed the parody, even Andy Warhol’s ’60s art piece – when he ate a Burger King cheeseburger with Heinz Ketchup.

The crowd seemed pleased with the results, half expecting greatness and half excepting what they see right before their eyes. It was what you would suspect would come of a pizza-themed event led by one of America’s most beloved child stars – almost a case study of star power and the ability it has to draw an audience. The tunes were tight and rehearsed, yet the essence of the show lay in the detail – the Beatnik dress, Warhol references and pizza dubbed covers all served to remind us what that movement was all about.

Whether burgers or pizza, the merit of Lou Reed, the Underground and Warhol laid in their ability to draw attention by defying conventions, something that Pizza Underground certainly did at PhilaMOCA .

In keeping with Culkin’s ability to avoid the limelight, he exited the stage as quietly as he has arrived and the show was over. The crowd finished their beer and left satiated and content, with stories to tell as if the night was lost in the ethereal.

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