This past Tuesday I received a notification from Facebook that two of my friends were going to a show at Empire Control Room that night to see Fragile Rock. The ad caught my attention because my mind read Fraggle Rock (you know, that one badass Jim Henson show from the 80s?) when I first saw the band’s name. The event promo picture had a portrait of five melancholy puppets and a description that read “The world’s biggest emo puppet band. Stays Felt January 19th at Empire Control Room. Free parking, cheap drinks and sad, sad puppets.”
The world’s biggest emo puppet band? In Austin? Tonight? Free parking? See you there.
Fragile Rock has a unique performance set up. The 9 members of the group divide the stage in three sections: in the front are five puppeteers/singers (that wear an identical outfit as the puppet they are controlling). Off to stage left and in the middle is a small drum set where the drumming puppet member of the band is placed, and the back portion of the stage is dedicated for the instrumentalist.
The band opened with I am Sad and so am I, which was the only song I have heard by them prior to the show. The rest of their songs are in the same vein. They’re catchy, silly, and have melodies that could fit in well in an episode of Sesame Street. Between the songs the puppeteers would banter between each other in character as the puppet they were controlling. Their conversations were filled with dark comedy and kept the whole crowd laughing throughout the show.
The most memorable part of the concert came towards the end of the set. Front man Milo S. (controlled by Bently Heilbron) tells the audience not to judge the performance of the next song because they only practiced it for about 30 minutes that day. The drummer gives a four count and the band starts playing Heroes by David Bowie while a huge David Bowie puppet (controlled by 3 puppeteers) emerged off the right side of stage. This stunt caused audience laugh so loud that it could be heard over the loud, extended guitar intro.
I’m not going to lie, there was a part of me that doubted the show was going to be good. I wasn’t sure if the whole emo puppet idea was going to be captivating enough for an entire 45 minute set and that the show would eventually turn into some overdrawn improve comedy sketch with the crowd giving petty laughs for the performers. Instead, I feel like I’ve just seen a sneak peak of an upcoming comedy film, and now I’m recommending friends to see it so we can quote the jokes together.
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