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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Put The Fun Back In Performance
Wednesday, August 22, 2007

OK, I know performance technically isn’t spelled with a “fun” in it anywhere, but it should be. PerFUNmance, perhaps? I don’t know. I’ll work on it. Regardless, the point of this post isn’t to create new language, it’s to remind all the artists out there that they should be having fun while they’re on stage. While macho posturing or insanely complicated choreography might seem nice they’re no substitute for an actual performance, which comes not from a script, but from the soul. On both Saturday and Monday I caught performances from two acts who understood this and I want to relate those stories to better explain my point.

Saturday – This past Saturday I took the very short trip to see X-IT at the Acoustic Café. After one weekend where I drove to Long Island and back, and another where I drove to Hartford and back, it was nice to have a car ride that was so short it took less than two songs on the radio to complete. X-IT is a band I know because the lead singer, Chris LaCava, and I used to work out together at the same dojo years ago. On this night he had a packed house full of friends and family and decided to do things VH1 Storytellers style, giving a little bit of info between each song. He also took shout out requests from the crowd. Both of these things put him on the same level as the crowd rather than above it and led to a really good time. During the show we were also treated to a few covers, including acoustic rock versions of Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It,” which was hilarious, and Prince’s “When Doves Cry,” which was simply great.

By playing to, rather than at, the crowd X-IT created an atmosphere where everyone felt like they were friends which made for a thoroughly enjoyable evening. It didn’t take much; a few words here in-between songs, a story there explaining what a song meant, a little something funny, and boom, fantastic show.

Monday – Not content to leave my gallivanting strictly to weekend evenings, on Monday I was in NYC for a rooftop performance by my homegirl Che’nelle. Che’nelle and I go way back as I was her first interview when she came to the States and I wanted to show my continued support. Plus I hadn’t seen her in over a month. So I arrived, said hi to a ton of people I knew and then watched as Che’nelle hit the stage like she was born to do it. Laughing, cracking jokes with the crowd, giving brief explanations of her songs, she did everything X-IT had done two nights earlier and then some. The then some was some supremely fantastic booty shaking, which I’m actually very glad none of the members of X-IT did (sorry guys, that’s just something I don’t want to see ya’ll doing). What made Che’nelle’s booty shaking different than a lot of other artists’ is that Che’nelle was smiling, showing everyone that she was having a good time and that she was shaking her booty because she wanted to, not because it was a dance move that was planned out. The genuineness of it rubbed off as rather than a bunch of guys going “oooh she’s shaking that ass,” everyone cracked a big smile right with her and some people even started dancing.

For neither of these shows was there a plan other than “perform music.” Everything else was improvised. I realize not every artist is talented enough to do that, but if you aren’t then stop being an artist. Performances aren’t about what you pre-plan, they’re about how you read and react to a crowd. If the crowd wanted pre-planned they’d watch a music video. Spontaneity creates fun. X-IT and Che’nelle weren’t afraid to be spontaneous during their shows and everyone had a great time. So if you’re an artist out there, before you buy a huge moving stage, get two tons of pyro, and hire the most expensive choreographer, realize all an audience really wants is to see that you’re having a good time. Sit down with us, be human, tell us a story. It’s a lot cheaper than a crazy stage, a lot simpler than a long dance number, and when it comes to making the fans happy it's far more effective.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:47 AM  
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