Walking onstage wearing nothing but tight black underwear with handcuffs attached, and a frighteningly disheveled bunny mask, Nobunny makes quite the first impression. This terrifying mask is a permanent fixture in his performances, but the rest of his outfit can change from show to show, or from song to song. Kneepads, raw meat, firecrackers, ball-gags, and panties are not out of the question during a Nobunny show, which is what makes his concerts both bizarre and entertaining. As eccentric as his persona is, Nobunny’s music is so bubble-gum punk that anyone and everyone will want to dance and sing along.
Originally from Tucson, Arizona, Justin Champlin is the man behind the music and the mask. On stage, he becomes Nobunny, a seven-year-old jackalope-human hybrid who was raised on peyote in the Southwestern desert.
“I was born in a desert about 45 minutes outside Tucson, Arizona, on March 3, 2001,” Nobunny told Turn It Down in an interview back in 2008. “Momma was a jackalope and daddy was a human. People think the desert is all death, when in fact there is a lot of life—jackrabbits, wild dogs, rattlers, scorpions, coyotes, and the moon. The moon is my other mother.”
The interviewer then went on to ask him what influences Nobunny.
“Girls. Girls. Girls,” Nobunny said. “The elements: air, earth, water, and fire. Love. Truth. The moon. As far as music: Hasil Adkins, Lil Bunnies, Albert Ayler, Elvis Presley, The Cramps, Gentleman Jesse, John Battles and ELO.”
His debut LP was Love Visions, which was home-recorded and released by Bubblegum Records in 2008. Following its original release, Love Visions was released by 1-2-3-4 Go! Records in 2009 alongside Raw Romance, which was released with Burger Records. His next two LPs, First Blood and Secret Songs, were released to equally high reviews as his first releases, and Nobunny officially made a name for himself in the punk music scene. His music has been described as a form of lo-fi garage punk with aspects of bubblegum and power pop, and is generally the kind of upbeat that welcomes a form of violent, adrenaline-inducing, and energy-draining dancing.
Downstairs in Eclectic for Nobunny’s show this past Thursday, the crowd was thriving and vibrating in anticipation of what was sure to be an entertaining night, expecting the strange and hoping for the outrageous. Opening for Nobunny was Baby Gap, whose singer and drummer continued to play during Nobunny’s set once they finished their own.
From the first beat of the first song, the crowd channeled in on Nobunny’s relentless energy and danced in such a violent and energetic way that it was impossible not to smile while dodging the flailing bodies all around. The song that was definitely the most well known by the Eclectic crowd was “Blow Dumb,” during which Nobunny walked into the crowd while continuing to sing and then invited people from the crowd on stage. The stage and the crowd merged and the show became one giant dance party.
This is how the show ended, with Wesleyan students yelling and dancing on stage with a semi-nude singer wearing a bunny mask and the rest of the crowd intermixed in an all out mosh-pit. Nobunny had described himself as, “that fool in the alley laughing…that body sleeping in the park…a skateboard and a tallboy,” which could to be interpreted as complete gibberish with no real meaning, but could also be construed as a way of saying that Nobunny represents anything and everything, nobody and everyone. In that sense, Wesleyan garnered a reputation of an equal and welcoming community in which everyone—even those in nightmarish bunny masks—are welcome to dance like madmen and sing along.