MEMBERS Rick Elmore and Brian Wishnefsky — aka Professor Gizmo the One-Man Band and Hairy James the Trumpet-Playing Gorilla — started The Klezmorim's slide toward performance art in 1977. Veterans of the San Francisco street scene, Gizmo and Brian were masters at making the entire landscape their personal stage. If you can attract and hold a crowd at Fisherman's Wharf — competing with clanging cable cars, rival musicians, hawkers, and thousands of tourists in chaotic motion — you can perform anywhere, for anybody.
(Later, well into our Major Concert Attraction phase, we'd jam anonymously at public squares — in London, New York, Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris — to see if we still had the old street magic. And yeah, we had it: traffic stopped, crowds gathered, little kids danced, les flics rousted us.)
Wishnefsky was a compulsive jokester with an encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture. Gizmo owned an epic collection of noisemakers and musical toys: we'd rehearse on kazoos, Tibetan drums, Crackerjack-box whistles, windup cymbal-crashing monkeys... We didn't need mind-altering substances; our milieu was surreal to begin with.
In 1978, KPFA jock Gerda Daley turned us on to two meta-bands who rocked our world forever. The Brass Band lampooned classical warhorses — decomposing Tchaikovsky and Rossini while bickering in dialect. Danny Elfman's 12-piece Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo overwhelmed the club stage with a gargantuan, nutso spectacle blending Balinese dance, Harlem jazz, dinosaurs, and beheadings.
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