In a hot, packed room in Provincetown, Man on Man played one of the few rock shows during the Cape Cod town's "Bear Week." Most venues in the gay enclave are designed with runways for drag shows, so the duo performed in a club basement for "a super-sweaty, super-hairy, super-beary" crowd, according to one half of the duo, Roddy Bottum.
Bottum cofounded the alt-metal band Faith No More, which rose to fame in the early 1990s. With his boyfriend Joey Holman, they make danceable synthy guitar music as Man on Man.
Provincetown is a special place for the couple. It's their home away from their New York City home, where they first said "I love you," and the name of their sophomore album. On tour now to promote Provincetown, Man on Man is slowly building a cool, multigenerational community in P-town and on the road.
"There's a faction of people in the queer community that identify with rock," Bottum reflects. "And it was a super-specific crowd that came to see us. They spoke the same language, and you could tell the people in the audience — they liked each other and they got each other. We were all in it together."
Their origin story is one of love and loss, with music as a sanctuary. Holman's mother died early in their relationship, Bottum's apartment building burned down, and the COVID-19 pandemic sent them to Oxnard, California, to care for Bottum's mother before she died. There, the two found some peace by making really good music together.
Starting this band was not something they set out to do. Despite different musical tastes, Man on Man's sound evolved organically, and with its eponymous album, they soon were opening for Dinosaur Jr.
"Musically, we both gravitate toward things that feel, for lack of a better word, authentic," Holman says of the point where their sonic preferences collide. "We're both into the real deal — things that feel less polished. I think that's where we meet."
Provincetown, much like its moniker suggests, is also a space where LGBTQ love, romance, sex, and power flourish. The song "Piggy" takes on their ambivalence with hookup apps. "Kids" is about growing older in the scene and still considering the kids' culture. Bottum says that as an older man in the community, along with others his age, he has things to share with and gain from younger people. "That's sort of our goal: to bring those worlds together and to sort of learn from each other."
The lyrics of "I Feel Good" — "I feel great/In these United States/I could go anywhere/but I stay anyway" — explain why the two have no problem traveling to a place the Human Rights Campaign declared unsafe for LGBTQ travelers. That's right, Florida. Man on Man is slated to play shows in Tampa, Orlando, and Gramps in Miami.
When Roddum told a friend they were heading on tour to the Sunshine State, the friend observed, "It's good you're going down there. It's good you're going to have a presence down there." As part of their credo, he says they've always stood up for queer politics and themselves, so traveling to Florida now is nothing they'd shy away from.
"I'm so undoubtedly proud of who we are that to be threatened by people who hate us, it's more energizing than it is making me feel afraid. And I haven't been like that for a lot of things in my life. I think that what we do, creating a space for queer people to gather, is an act of service that we can be a part of and be proud of because people are kind of afraid right now. Even if we're above it, there's still that emotional impact," Holman says. "I've never felt less afraid of something in my life."
Man on Man. With the Gas and I Love You This Much. 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 25, at Gramps, 176 NW 24th St., Miami; gramps.com. Tickets cost $16 to $18 via eventbrite.com.