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Friday, May 5, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Multi-genre "noSIGNAL" creates a buzz

Special to The Seattle Times

There is no tidy descriptor for "noSIGNAL," the new evening-length piece by local band "Awesome," so let's just lay it all out there: It's a musical sort-of-live concept album with theatrical elements and comedy bits addressing, among other topics, technical difficulties, recurring dreams, cell death, regeneration and bees. Lots and lots of bees.

On the stage, a honeycomb of seven hexagons marked with yellow tape serves as the sole set — unless you count the impressive array of instruments scattered about. But though the setting is minimalist, there's plenty to watch, including a bee's-eye-view video by David Russo and, of course, the seven members of "Awesome" positioned and at the ready.

Dressed in black pants, white shirts and tiny, yellow, clip-on ties, the band members (John Ackerman, Kirk Anderson, Basil Harris, Evan Mosher, David Nixon, John Osebold, and Rob Witmer) stand largely still for the first half of the show, each in their own hexagonal cell — worker bees blithely contributing their small but essential part to the whole.

Their movements may be restricted (think: small, beelike gestures), but the music is big, sometimes bizarre and often beautiful. Employing a theremin, accordion, trumpet, banjo and mandolin, in addition to countless other instruments, "Awesome" crafts a uniquely compelling sound.

While band members describe their music as a mix of the Beatles, They Might Be Giants and Ween, there's also a touch of Beach Boys in this show, thanks to impressive falsettos sung in tight, multipart harmony with happy-go-lucky appeal. Indeed, the seven seem to hum as a single organism.

But something is threatening the hive! One by one (and always hilariously), the drones are expelled to the outside world, where they are cold and vulnerable — lost without their bee buddies.

All this might seem a little twee, if it weren't for the immense musical talent of the band, which encompasses a mastery of both complicated time signatures and irresistible pop hooks. Not to mention the delight the musicians clearly take in writing lyrics — it's not every band that can create catchy songs about storage skills, optic nerves and Genghis Khan.

In addition, it must be said, these guys are totally nerd-hot.

The second half of the show is a payoff sweet as honey, not only because it features a gleeful reunion of the bee friends but because it contains a swarm of musical numbers, several of which subtly build to thoroughly satisfying anthems.

There's a big, bold word for this kind of fun — and I bet you know just what it is.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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