TURN IT DOWN: A survey of Lansing’s musical landscape
|By Rich Tupica|
Punk rock master of puppets
Ever wonder what would happen if you combined the puppetry skills of Jim Henson with the spirit of Johnny Rotten and violence of Jeffrey Dahmer?
You’d get The Gepetto Files, which isn’t merely a rock band, but a production featuring top-notch puppetry, live music a light show and dark comedy.
The puppet show plots and musical styles vary throughout the band’s performances.
The band, along with Lansing’s Dr. Device, will perform Thursday, May 21, at Mac’s Bar in Lansing. Talvitie said he plans to perform “A Day in the Life of Jeffrey Dahmer,” a fan favorite that ignores facts about the serial killer in favor of fictional oddity. “The Dahmer in the sketch is like Mr. Rogers gone bad,” Talvitie said. “People tell me, ‘I’ve never witnessed anything like that.’ The chief of police in the sketch is Vincent Van Gogh. I don’t know why.”
Other skits feature Mexican midgets, African lions and a “jug band” of Marines and Taliban prisoners, or as they call themselves, The Taliband.
Since then, Talvitie said he has steadily improved and expanded the stage show. “The first two thirds of The Gepetto Files’ existence, it was primarily a sketch-comedy type act,” he said. “In the last couple of years it has turned into a musical. There is a rock’n’roll band that accompanies the puppets. Meanwhile, the band wears Viking helmets and ninja suits.”
While the production may seem professional now, The Gepetto Files is rooted in the punk rock lifestyle. “I was being a punk, being a drunk and being a maniac,” Talvitie said. “I lived at a big art house with a bunch of other freaks. Once I made my first puppet, it hit me. I took up doing rock concerts and performing puppet theater. I do it pretty much 24-7 now.”
Talvitie’s hard work has paid off in recent years, with his gang of rocking puppets acquiring a following in Michigan and beyond. “We have a pretty loyal fan base in Southern Michigan and the Midwest,” he said. “We recently found out Brian Henson, Jim Henson’s son, gave a shout out to The Gepetto Files at a Los Angeles puppet show in the past year or so. Also, one of the lead puppeteers and builders from the ‘Team America’ movie is also a fan. I guess the word is getting out there. It’s pretty flattering.”
with Dr. Device 9 p.m. Thursday, May 21 Mac’s Bar, 2700 E. Michigan Ave, Lansing $5 www.gepettofiles.com