Dynamic Duos

This past weekend I saw two duos perform. One was Tim and Eric of Tim and Eric Awesome Show and the other was Mecca Normal.

A friend introduced me to Tim and Eric's work a few months ago. Their show is on Adult Swim though I've only seen their videos online. They just finished up a sold out tour of the US. Not sold out in the sense that you can get in line the night of the show and still get a ticket, but sold out weeks in advance. Sold out to the point where there are scalpers and people offering a lot of money for extra tickets. When I showed up at the Baghdad Theatre in Portland to meet my friend, he was waiting in a line three blocks long. The guy behind us spotted Tim looking out a backstage window and said, in all seriousness, "Look, there's Tim. Wow, I just saw a real life rock star." (The term "rock star" now applies to chefs, clothing designers, interactive media whiz kids; and probably also to hair dressers, dogs, Judd Apatow, and presidential candidates. I think it's actually more difficult to find someone who isn't a "rock star." For some reason I wish the same thing would happen to the word "hippie.")

Watch two videos from Tim and Eric:

As a live performance, Tim and Eric Awesome Show is one of the more exciting events I have been to in a long time. It's a mixture of stadium rock, performance art, Vaudeville, Beckett, and social commentary. They dissect life into thin sheets and then extract the absurdity from the minutiae. The microscopic lens with which they view the world makes for painful, awkward, and sometimes ridiculous comedy, but in its strangeness are also the truths that make it funny. Each moment of the show is carefully constructed, from the characters entrances and gaits, to the music accompanying the movements. The overall effect is a surreal and frenzied spectacle.

Watch two more Tim and Eric Awesome Show videos:

In a completely different setting—this time in the woods of Battle Ground, WA—I saw an intimate performance by Mecca Normal. Though the Vancouver BC musical duo is known for their art rock and politics, they too mix frivolity with commentary and blend discomfort with ease. Many of the songs they performed on that sunny afternoon dealt with Jean Smith's foray into on-line dating. The lyrics drew laughter from the crowd, they were brilliant poems dealing with her misadventures in love (a Rottweiler that insisted on sleeping on the bed, a bedroom door that had to be held shut with a large piece of coral), but the acute observations had dark undertones, an underlying sadness, hints of disconnect and disaster. David Lester is an illusionist on guitar, melodies and guitar lines reveal themselves unexpectedly; they flutter about and then recede. His body seems as much a source for the music as the instrument itself, moving and swaying. The combination of the two performers has always been electrifying, not always easy, but never false.

Watch a video for the Mecca Normal song "Naked And Ticklish". It is one of the online dating songs.

All right, that's all the duo love I have for today. Feel free to comment on your favorite duo or duo moments.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Hunkasaurus and His Pet Dog Guitar. The duo is ushering in the art revolution in music, art, literature, reviews, art centers, and more. Long live the revolution in the arts - new century new everything!

Sent by Tom Hendricks | 4:25 PM | 5-6-2008

My favorite singing duo is Simon and Garfunkel. I love...LOVE...Simon and Garfunkel, and I will destroy anyone who insults me for it. I heard "Sound of Silence" this morning at work. Their voices intertwine like rope, rope you can use to build a bridge over troubled water (I had to; I added that a minute later).

My favorite guitar duo is Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd of Television. "Marquee Moon" is one of those songs that hypnotizes, and you don't have to be stoned to love it. They go together like the moon and the stars.

Sent by Nick L. | 4:49 PM | 5-6-2008

Me gusta Tartufi and Jucifer for current duo madness... I saw Hella the first time evar at an SK show here in SF, they were so tripped-out good. Often, duos overdub in the studio, so I can imagine the difference between a live and studio musical experience are more different for duos than trios, quartos, five-os or whathaveyou, no?

I wonder, did SK ever have trouble with specific songs due to the studio/live dichotomy?

Sent by joe | 6:37 PM | 5-6-2008

my favorite duo is also Ed and Amber from Jucifer. a broken drum stick hit me in the head at a show once. my little ponies and guillotines...

Sent by agualinda | 7:49 PM | 5-6-2008

Please check out Tim and Eric's first show, Tom Goes to the Mayor. Great satire of suburbia, those "10 Habits of Highly Successful People" kind of people, the vacuity of pop culture and daily life, etc. Oh, and it's also funny as hell.

Duos I know: Fiery Furnaces (really a band, I guess, pretty much), Quasi, Ferranti & Teicher, The Carpenters, Free Kitten (maybe? have to dig it out to check), Lee Hazlewood & Ann-Margret, White Stripes, and I guess this Jucifer band, although I don't have any of their albums. I do love watching duos perform, they're usually so intense. It's like watching a whole relationship in fast-forward.

Sent by Michael | 9:30 PM | 5-6-2008

Quasi will always be one of my all time favourite bands; however I also love She and Him and the White Stripes. Lately I've really gotten into the last Viva Voce album, as well.

Sent by Kirie | 10:20 PM | 5-6-2008

I saw Tim & Eric as well.
I don't think I've ever laughed so hard while feeling so uncomfortable.

This is by far my favorite sketch.

Sent by Breanna D. | 11:23 PM | 5-6-2008

Humpers...best Tim and Eric short. ever.

Sent by CM | 11:51 PM | 5-6-2008

I really like Flight of The Conchords. At first I sort of dimissed them as a Tenacious D imitation, but they are really very different. The timing and humor of FOTC is near perfect.

Sent by marco v. | 12:46 AM | 5-7-2008

Although not billed as a duo, I love, love, love Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. Amazing everytime I see them.

Sent by christine | 1:46 AM | 5-7-2008

those videos are awesome.

i like japanther alot and also this band sad horse. i saw them last week and they were awesome.

Sent by ld | 2:55 AM | 5-7-2008

That was a pretty sweet NPR mix that the opening DJ did at Tim and Eric.

Sent by Christina | 3:58 AM | 5-7-2008

I know there's a lot of other acts out there that are probably more important and better duos, but at this hour that is far too early for me to be awake, the combo of Brian Eno and Robert Fripp comes to mind. They often went way over the deep end into some heavy, heavy pretension but when they were on they were spectacular. Fripp's superb, highly evocative yet strangely detached and emotionless guitar work was the perfect compliment to Eno's minimalistic and graceful sensibility. Their collaboration on "St. Elmo's Fire" off of Eno's Another Green World is just one of those very few perfect songs for me. Check it out.

In the realm of comedy, nothing beats the combo of David Cross and Bob Odenkirk on Mr. Show.

Sent by Lance | 8:20 AM | 5-7-2008

I will never tire of Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer trying to get out of their car in awkward ways. "Ships Engine" still makes me laugh.

Tim Conway and Harvey Corman as dentist and patient define physical comedy and timing. And I still have a soft spot for "The Apple Dumpling Gang."

And although not in the spotlight as much these days, I still quite like The Proclaimers.

Sent by Mac Coldwell | 8:40 AM | 5-7-2008

slingshot dakota has been one of my favorite bands lately; they are a duo from ny/pa. apart from the songs being fun, and the lyrics being personal, its the first time in a long while that a band actually meant it when they said, "hey, come by the merch table and say hi," after their set. its nice when a band or people for that matter are as sincere as the words they sing, write, speak and actually put themselves out there.

Sent by anthony. | 10:04 AM | 5-7-2008

I really like FotC also.
Those Tim & Eric videos though... I dunno. I guess I'm getting old.

Sent by Dirk | 10:25 AM | 5-7-2008

Kiki & Herb doing "I'm Not Waiting," of course.

Sent by teething ring | 11:10 AM | 5-7-2008

Duos are awesome to catch live because you get to see the chemistry between two kindred souls. Two great duos I recently saw perform were Mates Of State and The Kills. And talk about complete polar opposites!

I saw Mates Of State do an in-store performance in Boston's Newbury Comics to kick off the first (annual, hopefully) Record Store Day. They played at 11:20am and they made waking up on early on a Saturday very worth it. Cutesy indie pop from a married couple that doesn't come across as precious and fragile. Just the way the two of them would look at each other during songs made me jealous of what they have.

The Kills were definitely the other end of the spectrum. Dark, scuzzy, blues rock backed by a drum machine. Allison Mosshart is a really magnetic frontwoman, prowling around stage, preening and lunging towards the audience. And let's not forget the undeniable sexual tension not only in their songs but in their performance. They had a sense of danger about them that felt real, or at least felt like they'd be out looking for their next fix after the show.

Sent by Brian L. | 1:43 PM | 5-7-2008

The Black Keys rock the friggin house.

Saw them twice last year. Absolutely awesome.

Sent by Joe Militello | 4:22 PM | 5-7-2008

I forgot Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny as a wicked awesome duo.

Sent by Mac Coldwell | 4:29 PM | 5-7-2008

marvin gaye and tammi terrell.
for sure.

Sent by megan m. | 7:52 PM | 5-7-2008

I think that's probably the most accurate Tim and Eric description i've ever read. most people just kind of chuckle as the pipe goes around...

Sent by Andrew | 10:43 PM | 5-7-2008

Off the top of my head, I'd say Matmos, Ben + Vesper, Lightning Bolt, Quintron and Miss Pussycat, OutKast.

Non-musical, Jon Benjamin and Jon Glaser are amazing when they perform together.

Sent by Jon L | 10:11 AM | 5-8-2008

Herc./Metal Porpoise

Not only are they a duo, but they play as two different bands in one set, somewhat of a duo duo.

Sent by K | 3:20 PM | 5-8-2008

I'm with Jon L on Lightning Bolt. I saw them a four or five years back in NYC in this now defunct place called The Cooler. Thurston Moore OPENED for them and played a huge chunk of the Psychic Hearts album, which I thought I'd never see live. Then Lightning Bolt set up on the floor of the venue rather than the stage and proceeded to pump out one of the most intense clouds of propulsive energy I've ever experienced. We were dancing our asses off and befuddled why nobody else was moving. Only later did we see signs posted saying that the place didn't have a cabaret license and so you weren't allowed to dance. WTF? I'm not interested in messing things up for a venue that holds shows like this so I'm glad I didn't see the signs until later, since I would've probably tried to not dance, which would've been utter torture. In the event, blissful ignorance prevailed.

Sent by John Ranta | 6:16 PM | 5-8-2008

I went to both the Tim and Eric Seattle shows and was completely blown away. I really didn't think that many people were into the weird humor I cherish so deeply. They ROCKED my pants off. You should check out their "Awesome Record, Great Songs, Vol. 1" CD.

Another of my favorite duos is Flight of the Conchords, check their stuff out, it's charming and awkward. I love it :)

Sent by Jamie Arr | 7:49 PM | 5-9-2008

Big sweet thug dog on the bed is a don't?


Sent by CJ | 3:35 PM | 5-11-2008

The Badger King (RIP) were the best duo ever.

Sent by Kevin | 8:25 PM | 5-13-2008


NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from