To steal unapologetically from Steinbeck: Slim Bone Head Volt is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Slim Bone Head Volt is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps of an actor’s brain and a musician’s hands. Its inhabitant are, as the man once said, “whores, pimps, gamblers and sons of bitches,” by which he meant Vincent D’Onofrio. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, “Saints and angels and martyrs and holymen,” and he would have meant Dana Lyn.
The project’s theatrical roots are evident: Slim Bone Head Volt is the free-form system of Stanislavski mixed with the daring of Sturm und Drang and the broken fourth wall of improvisation; it’s Ionesco and Brecht meets The Last Poets and Tom Waits; a theater-of-the-absurd-in-the-round and unabashed circle in the square times of today.
In the mirror world of Slim Bone Head Volt, the musician scores the soundtrack to the water balloons of thought that run through the actor’s head. Strings howl and percussion thumps while bells whistle and bass lines stalk, like a jazz band from hell recording in a smoke-filled zero gravity chamber. The speech erupts and whines, slinks and probes, never winking (possibly?) and never letting up (certainly)—a raging tempest of ridicule and a hilariously balmy assault upon the ears.
The duo was born when, during rehearsals for an off-Broadway play in which both D’Onofrio and Lyn were cast members, the actor invited his innermost thoughts into the unsuspecting minds of his contemporaries via that modern day messiah of connection: the text message. The transmissions were long, rambling, and raucous, and Lyn, an accomplished multi-instrumentalist and composer, fell in love with them. In direct contradiction to the thumb-guided medium’s impermanence, she sought to give the messages new life by pairing them with her own original music and encouraged D’Onofrio to share more.
The actor, trapped in the physical shape of Mr. D’Onofrio, flings his synapses onto the tiny external brain he carries around in his pocket. He does not edit—he cannot edit, for when do you consciously amend your dreams? You do not, and he does not, for this is honesty, and truth, and beauty, and it is all quite fucked up. These are the inner workings of a man gone mad with his own majesty, and they are as profound as they are pathetic and heroic in their humility. Behold as tears are caught and collected in freezer cubes, cockpit groin stimulation ignites carnal self-knowledge, guppies pine for nicotine, and things of all creed and color are railed against. What if the ending of Casablanca was instead rewritten as “Goodbyes are for suckers?” or if anyone caught yada yada yada-ing was automatically told to kiss off? This is the mirror world of Vincent’s journals. As the maniac himself snarls, “I’m a mule and everybody should just slow the fuck down.”
“Dana, the band, and I are a balloon,” he says. “We float into other gatherings of balloons held by strangers. We let them hold us as we are now connected to them. The wind blows us to another gathering, another connection, and so on and so on. This balloon is us and it pops after each performance. We become inflated again with our art. And we are off.”
And so we are beseeched by these outrageous slings and arrows, left wading in this sea of troubles and wondering once and for all how we found ourselves here being smacked in the head by the Slim Bone yet again. If we learned one single thing from the first go around, it is this: do not take arms to oppose them, as it is nobler to let our minds suffer instead.
Slim Bone Head Volt, Vol. 2 will be released to the public with a live event on May 4 at Joe’s Pub in New York City, to date the only venue Slim Bone has ever played. There simply aren’t many other places in the world that can handle them.