OXES are an instrumental rock band from Baltimore, Maryland. Its music has been called math rock or post-punk, though it does not subscribe to any genre.
Its members are part of what is known as "The Baltimore Rowdy Collective" which stages practical jokes, usually involving a confrontational and outlandish racket in public places. These happenings are comparable to the Lettrist scandals and Luther Blissett.
In all of the band's early performances, guitarists Marc Miller
and Natalio Fowler
both stood on large black boxes (or pedestals
) towering over the audiences, a nod to the superiority complexes
of rock bands. They would occasionally step down from the boxes to walk into the audience and stand in front of individuals in the crowd (while still playing) in an attempt to make them feel uncomfortable. This was later aided by the much self-publicized acquisition of wireless guitars. Drummer Christopher Freeland
would intermittently get up from his set and barge around the stage, mumbling incoherent babble, only to sit back down and lunge into another song. Miller and Fowler are noted for having the birth dates of Jimi Hendrix
's birth and death dates, respectively.
While the band retained its use of the large black boxes and wireless guitars, its later shows were marked by lesser accepted ideas of showmanship. However, they still maintain a certain level of audacious and silly stage presence. After their 2002 South by Southwest performance, Entertainment Weekly named them the "Blue Man Group of rock."
In late 2004, the group began doing an encore that consisted only of a reenactment of the opening scene for 2001: A Space Odyssey, introduced by the drummer as a one-act play and a new direction for the band. The two black boxes where stacked longways to resemble the monolith in the film, and Miller and Freeland began a free jazz rendition of Also sprach Zarathustra. Fowler would slowly reemerge from an inconspicuous place in the venue, completely naked, bearing an object resembling or meant to symbolize a large bone. As the musical climax arrived, he would become increasingly enraged, much like the ape in the film, and eventually tear down the monolith and run off on all fours.
The most renowned performance came during the 2005 South by Southwest music festival. Here, the encore was performed beside the stage on a rocky waterfall constructed to look like a jungle, high above the audience. At the end of the performance, the boxes toppled down the tiered levels of vegetation into the audience. The press present at the performance documented the event in several articles across the country as saving an otherwise boring week.
The OXES/Arab on Radar split 10"
Prior to the release of their eight-track album OXXXES
in 2002, the band put out a 10" record, billed as a split EP between OXES and Rhode Island noise-rockers Arab on Radar
. The A-side of the record was performed by OXES. However, the B-side was also OXES—this time convincingly impersonating Arab on Radar. The unusual idea allegedly came about during practice sessions for the record, whereupon OXES happened to write some songs similar to Arab on Radar's, subsequently recording and releasing the record as an OXES/Arab on Radar split, unknown to the latter band.
The Old Navy t-shirt fiasco
In the second quarter of 2006 the clothing company Old Navy
released a t-shirt
bearing the image of a flier for one of the bands non-existent previous shows. There was no official word on whether or not OXES or Monitor Records
, the band's record label, endorsed this. However, as of May 2006, both OXES and Monitor's MySpace
pages bore an anti-Old Navy picture bearing the slogan "Boycott Old Navy (if you feel like it)", as well as the comment relating to "Old Navy Clothing Store now stocking inferior quality versions of our t-shirts!". However, the seriousness of such a comment is thrown into question by a similar comment, "iTunes Music Store now stocking inferior quality versions of our newest record!" also appearing on OXES' Myspace page. The latter comment may, however, be a comment by the band on the use of unpopular DRM encoding which limits the quality and accessibility of digital music.
On August 9, 2006, OXES and Monitor Records filed a trademark infringement action in the U.S. District Court of New York, and are seeking monetary damages as well as a permanent injunction against Old Navy.
- Marc Miller – guitar
- Natalio Fowler – guitar
- Christopher Freeland – drums