Thursday, August 14, 2008

Why I love Ben Folds

Ben Folds is a 42 year-old North Carolina native that has released 12 albums (3 solo), had a shitload of songs on the radio, is friends with William Shatner and "Weird Al" Yankovic, and has toured with the likes of John Mayer, Ben Kweller, and Rufus Wainwright.
But musical accomplishments aside, Ben seems like he is a legitimately cool dude. He has famously pranked his fans a few times. The most recent of these is when he "leaked" his new album, Way To Normal. The leaked version has nine songs on it, and three of them are real, going-to-be-on-the-album songs. The rest were recorded in one night in Ireland, and released by Folds masquerading as a fan. They aren't meant to be taken seriously, and to be honest, a few of them are REALLY shitty. The fans' reaction was mostly positive, surprisingly.
But besides that, Folds has done the following:

Set up a "fake Ben" prank:
He looks more like Ben Gibbard, but whatever.
If you've seen the videos of people freezing in places like Central Park and Grand Central Station, you've seen a video by the comedy troupe Improv Everywhere. Folds teamed up with them to do the following:

The plan was for the show to begin with three imposters entering the stage rather than the actual band. I would reprise my role as fake Ben Folds and Agents Barrison and King would pose as Ben’s bassist and drummer, respectively.

Since none of us could actually play our assigned instruments, the plan was to play a CD as we pretended to jam. Agent Folds had his engineer down in Nashville burn a CD with a special song just for the prank. The CD had a version of his cover of The Cure’s “In Between Days” that had some skips and restarts programmed into it. If our ruse worked, the audience would be fooled into thinking the band was lip-synching, only to discover we were imposters when the real band showed up.

After a certain amount of CD skipping, Agents Barrison and King would panic and run off stage, leaving me to be stopped by security. Once security had me, the real Ben would come out, reclaim his glasses, and punch me in the gut.
Annnnd here is the video of the event:

Pretty fucking great, isn't it? They did a great job, and apparently a lot of people were fooled.

Had "fans" shit their pants during a show:
Improv Everywhere teamed up with Folds again, the night after the above prank, and fooled audience members into thinking other audience members had crapped their pants.
I'm going to do a terrible job of explaining this one, so here is their explanation:

For the second show, we were going to try out Agent Folds’ aforementioned idea involving the 10Hz frequency, also know as the “Brown Note.” The band had been playing the frequency at every gig on the tour, informing the audience of the urban legend that it is so intense that it makes humans defecate in their pants. Someone from the band’s crew would throw diapers into the crowd as the sound played, but of course nothing ever happened. Tonight would be different.

We would scatter four agents in the audience have each of them freak out when the sound was played. Security would bring them to the stage to get medical attention, and I would arrive dressed as an EMT to clean them up with towels (pre-stained with chocolate syrup, of course.)

Here is a video of that exact thing happening. It's a bit shaky, and a bit dark, but you get the idea:

Not as great as the "fake Ben" one, I know, but funny and interesting nonetheless.

Had a fan "fall" at his live Myspace gig:
This will explain the entire situation better than I could:

Ben Folds performs 'Jesusland' as part of his myspace gig, webcast live from his studio in Nashville, Tennessee on October 24th 2006.

The drunk 'falling guy' was a dummy, and a prank played by Ben/MySpace. The audience had rehearsed 'being shocked' a few times before going on air.

Here is the video:

Go to 3:14 to see the "action." I love his expression, and how he just keeps playing.

So, as you can tell, Ben is a prankster. I can't wait to see what he has in store for us when he tours for the new album. I'll keep you all posted.
Click here to read Rolling Stones' article on Ben Folds' leaked album, including MP3s of the real and fake songs and Folds explaining them. I loved this article.

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