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TV concert features Milan musician

Tom Jackson • Feb 20, 2014 at 4:30 PM

They’re big in France.

A concert recording by French TV of underground rock band Pere Ubu, featuring Milan musician Robert Wheeler, is available on demand on the Internet.

Wheeler is best known locally as the longtime president of the Edison Birthplace Association. But for years, he’s been a member of Pere Ubu, an “avant-garage” band formed in Cleveland in the 1970s.

In the concert video, which lasts about 90 minutes, Wheeler is the fellow on the audience’s right, wearing a hat (it’s an Edison birthplace hat), lifting his hands and playing a theremin. The show was recorded when the band played a music festival last weekend in Paris. It’s available on the Internet at bit.ly/1eSRA0U.

“My right hand controls my pitch. My left hand controls my volume,” explained Wheeler.

The band enjoys a bigger following in Europe than in the United States. The band’s leader, David Thomas, lives in England.

Most of the songs in the Paris concert are from the band’s 2013 album, “The Lady from Shanghai,” which enjoyed strong reviews. Allmusic.com   said the album “shows that Pere Ubu can tap into paranoia, loathing, and the downright weird with nearly as much ease and eloquence as they did almost four decades before”

The album is available from the band’s website, ubuprojex.net, and the usual online music outlets. Pere Ubu is recording a new album for possible release in the fall.

Wheeler also carries the title of “director of grocery police” with the band.

It’s kind of an inside joke, Wheeler explained. He is the band member who is tasked with telling websites with pirated Pere Ubu material to take it down.

“I’m also in charge of cleaning the van when we’re on tour” he said.

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