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2009 Beatbox Convention - Concert Review

Words by David Barros of Too Much Flavour

As evening drew in, the action moved in to the Purcell Room for the final concert, which had a fantastic array of acts lined up. While the open mic sessions earlier were open to freestylers, the concert consisted of rehearsed performances from beatboxing groups.

Hobbit once again played his role as host, opening the concert with another set to get any newcomers in the audience up to speed with beatboxing, and showcasing his laughing sample.

At this point I realised just how well the acoustics in the auditorium added such an immersing element to the bass notes. While a classical venue such as the Southbank Centre will suit classical music, the sound that night filled the entire room with wonderful clarity!

The first performance was from the trio Lytos, Markooz and Skiller, who took to the stage individually before performing as a trio. Markooz took the first spot, going through varied musical styles, most notably using Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry" before adding tempo to it. He also had an incredibly sharp snare. Lytos' performance was a humorous story of meeting a girl and dating her, describing the raunchy affair through beatbox somewhat graphic samples, and using a squeaky voice to sing. Skiller was the final of the three, and went mainly for beats, giving a fantastic funky drumming rhythm before Markooz and Lytos reappeared from behind the curtain to join him in a final jam.

With the energy set to high, next up were a group of five girls known as The Boxettes. All musical students, their ensemble consisted of four vocalists and one main beatboxer, although to define them more precisely, they're a fusion of beatboxing, harmonies and vocals with different musical influences, where each of them sings a different part of the music. They may have looked small on the wide stage, but the girls' voices created a powerful resonance in the room. Having appeared at last year's BoxCon, they performed updated versions of old songs from their repertoire, and some new material too, most of which written by the group. Come the same time next year, they will have an even bigger future.

After the interval, the group Ommm from France did a long set. Unlike generic beatbox groups, their main inspiration wasn't from hip hop but drew from continental influences, using different musical conventions which had a soulful feel to them. Their second set involved an upbeat disco medley before getting the audience to beatbox the rhythm for their next number. What I liked about Ommm was that they didn't go for crowd pleasing or recognisable songs, but stuck to their style and engaged the audience too, keeping them original and authentic, with basic choreography and folk-inspired outfits.

The final act was from the eclectic duo New York beatboxer Adam Matta and English tuba player Oren Marshall. What people may not have recognised is that when a tuba is hooked up to a microphone, the depth of the bass notes it produces are phenomenal, and their first set saw Oren produce a thumping bass track while Adam beatboxed over it. What followed was on of the most original pieces of theatre I'd seen, entitled "A Day In The Life Of A Typical Dude In New York City." Adam took centre stage and built a soundscape of waking up, leaving for work, spending time at the office and going to a club. The audience loved it, and it was a brilliant standalone piece for which he should be credited.

Next it was Oren's turn, who used a synthesiser and loop machine to manipulate his tuba at different pitches to build up and take away layers. Although I'd seen beatboxers do this live earlier in the day, it was the first time I had seen it done with an instrument. For their closing number, Adam reentered the stage for an atmospheric finale, comparable to the soundtrack of a chase scene in a thriller being reproduces with a tuba and a beatbox, before smoothing out in to smooth jazz.

The concert was a fantastic end to the convention, giving lots of alternatives ways in which beatboxing can be used to create fused genres suit a theatre environment. What I saw as a newbie to Boxcon amazed me. Having seen beatboxers thump out similar beats all day, I wasn't sure how far beatboxing could be pushed as I had become climatised to solo performances, nor did I know of groups such as The Boxettes and Ommm, or ever seen someone tell a story just using noise.

For the fans, and especially for people new to beatboxing, the final concert is what Boxcon '09 will be remembered for. As for those that missed it, make sure you don't miss Boxcon 2010!

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