Hi friends! We just wanted to take a second to thank everyone who’s joined us so far at Outside The Box, and invite those who haven’t to come over to the Common – like the comedian says, we’ll be here all week. Oh, and if you’re reading these recaps, we hope they’re serving as inspiration to check out some new artists and performances.
So we’ve been noticing a theme developing over the course of each day. Day one: audience participation. Day two: positivity. Day three: unity. Today we saw person after person stop dead in their tracks on their way to lunch or home, or just passing through the Common, and say, “What is this? This is fantastic!” Usually that question was addressed to a stranger already watching the performance, bringing the two together through the common language of performing arts.
Australia’s Got Talent winner and virtuoso guitarist Joe Robinson took the Beacon Stage at noon, drawing residents and tourists alike who sprawled on the lawn to soak up his acoustic melodies and ease themselves into the day. Over at the Spiegeltent, Thread played their classical avant-garde meets Klezmer and New England fiddle music – and if that’s not unity, we don’t know what is.
As workers from the surrounding area began to break for lunch, they stopped by the Park Street Stage to catch Urbanity. A modern dance company that also consists of a 100-student school and leads various community programs, Urbanity’s performance ran the gamut , from modern interpretations of movements set to tunes like The National’s “This Is the Last Time”, to a pair of young students presenting a West African dance. Urbanity also demonstrated its latest community program Movement Mends, a collaboration between dancers and male teens in Department of Youth Services (DYS) juvenile detention centers. The teens compose original music while Urbanity members choreograph routines set t that music, with the end result being music videos donated to children fighting cancer. We found ourselves holding back the tears as we watched and listened to the emotional performance.
Air Traffic Controller is a group with an interesting story: lead singer and founder Dave Munro was an actual air traffic controller. He even incorporates snippets of control tower talk into his songs! Men in khakis and ties and women in dresses and low heels stopped to take in the modern day indie rock, like a duet with bassist Casey Sullivan called “Any Way”, as Munro declared “This might be the coolest thing Boston’s ever had!”
“What do you think about the music?” We asked a gentleman in a dress shirt and tie, who was obviously on lunch break.
“I didn’t even know this was going on,” he said. “I’m going to schedule my lunch at different times this week so I can check out as many performances as I can!”
By now, crowds had grown across the Common, with the flashpoint being the A Cappella Contest taking place on the park Street Stage. Aca-cuse me? Yes, A Cappella! Hosted by Emerson’s WERS 88.9 (whose DJs are raising the profile of a cappella with their weekend All A Cappella show, the best of collegiate and professional A Cappella), it was like Pitch Perfect come to life. Sorry, singers – we’re sure you’re sick of the comparison, but that movie was really good! Six groups competed for the title of Aca-best, with judges Shea Rose, Massachusetts native and Boston Opera Collaborative’s Brendan Buckley, and Berklee assistant professor and former Diana Ross vocalist Jerome Kyles offering honest and constructive criticism to the performers.
The tension mounted over the course of an hour as the groups battled it out to the finish. After an intense sing-off between Terpsichore and Fermata Town that included beat-boxing and mash ups of Tears For Fears and White Stripes tunes, Fermata Town was awarded the $5000 grand prize! But Terpsichore didn’t go home empty-handed – they were awarded $2500 as runner-up. Make sure to check out our full coverage of the A Cappella contest later on today in the news section.
Meanwhile, over at the Lily Pad, Alastair Moock educated and entertained a crowd of babies, toddlers, and their parents. Explaining the origins of the banjo he played and singing updated versions of songs his twin girls loved to hear (like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”), he had the little ones bopping around in their Moock tees.
Are you familiar with the word “barnburner”? Well, that’s Barnstar!, and not just because their name starts with “barn.” When a band’s line-up includes fiddle, banjo, and stand-up bass players, you know you’re in for something special – and indeed, the quintet, who consist of successful singer/songwriters and side giggers, played bluegrass on the Beacon Stage that made the Common feel like friendly party where everyone had a smile for you.
Jayne Amelia Larson’s Driving the Saudis is a one-woman show based on her personal experiences as a chauffeur for the Saudi royal family. An audience of young and old gathered in the Spiegeltent for the multi-media performance. Hilarious, heartbreaking, informative (did you know that a security detail travels with the drivers, and controls all locks and windows in the car?) and thought-provoking (Larson really forces you to examine that concept of “value”, especially the value of women, and how that differs between cultures), this is one of the most powerful performances we’ve seen this week. You have another chance to check it out at the Spiegeltent TODAY 7/16 at 5:30pm.
On the Beacon Stage, Dale Ann Bradley continued the bluegrass vibe of the day, running through a set of tunes from her numerous award-winning albums, covers (George Jones’ “She Thinks I Still Care”), and closing with the excellent “Next To Nothing.”
Country bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs ended the day with his set of classics (like the late, great Doc Watson’s “Tennessee Stud”) and new tunes (like the title track to his album Music To My Ears, written by a pal and Berklee professor - by the way, did you know Skaggs is a graduate of Berklee?). “I’m not really into country, but this really good!” exclaimed an audience member, instigating a conversation with a stranger to his right. “I live right up the street, and I’m going to try and catch as many performances as I can,” he continued. His new friend responded, “I work around the corner, and I really hope they do this again next year.”
Sadly, the time came for Skaggs’s excellent set to come to an end, but the audience wasn’t having it: “Play 30 more minutes!” yelled a gentlemen who’d been on his feet dancing the whole show. Skaggs retuned to the stage and said he wished he could, but you know, there’s a curfew. He didn’t leave the crowd wanting, though, as he led them in a one-verse sing-along to “Amazing Grace”, and later signed autographs and took photos with fans. What a powerful way to end the day – by bringing people together.
So whether you’re on your lunch break, getting out of the office early, or just playing hooky (it’s okay, we won’t tell), make sure to come by Outside The Box today to meet some new friends and experience the unifying performances for yourself!