Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lizard Fair 2010: A Family Affair

This is the first concert I’ve attended in the past 45 years that I couldn’t smell that sweet salacious aroma of marijuana wafting through the audience. Could be that most of the concert-goers were in that prime pre-teen to teenage demographic. Some groups of kids went solo and some came with friends accompanied, of course by watchful eye of their superego-inflated parents. The old folks didn’t come so much for the music as they did to prevent their kids from doing the dog nasty-naughty things they did as willful teens. To this day, many of these aging boomers suffer from a heliocentric view that the sun and everything else in creation revolves around them and their little bourgeois offspring. To some degree Lizard Faire was an exercise in self aggrandizement…”look what I do for my kids that my parents never did for me”– well… for me it was true- at least in the beginning when the kids asked me to take them. I would be their hero.
Yeah, right.

I tried desperately to hate this show and everything and everybody involved in it – from Dow Chemical and the Great Lakes Loons to Taco Bell and Labadie Olds …but I couldn’t – it was just too much fun. And it started right away like a race horse first off the line. Burnham opened the show with punch of pure adrenaline and some excellent pop music. The three Burnham brother-others are veteran scene stealers from Vermont. The youngest Burnham, 14 year old Forrest did his best Donny Osmond with the verve and charm of a seasoned performer - much like Miley Cyrus or the Jonas Brothers. He sang his adolescent butt off about love, teenage angst and more love and teenage angst. Songs such as Goddess and Perfect Saturday were shiny digital pop gems. Their hit Catch Me if You Can went down well and the girls in the front row pledged their undying love to which young Forest replied “I love you too” and so it goes…a veritable loves fest ensued.

Finding Clyde is an up and coming rock band from Chad Cunningham’s Bullfrog Records – it’s more fun than selling furniture but not as lucrative. Still, if anyone in mid-Michigan could get a young band into the big time it would be Cunningham. He is relentless and driven and though he may look unhappily obsessive he’s really having the time of his life. Finding Clyde is his latest project and they are a very good band and Joe Rivard is a superb frontman. He can sing a big power ballad like Be Someone and then rock your black cat bone with Time Waster. Look for Cunningham and Rivard to break this band into the big time.

Shontelle and Iyaz relied on a DJ scratching tracks and pre-recorded music. It took me awhile to buy into it …but I finally got it. The vocal backing tracks included a guide vocal for the lead singer – to free the artist to dance, make vocal asides and lead the tweens in a jump, jump, jump throw your fist up in the air frenzy as the pre-recorded lead vocal kept up the pace. The kids loved it…and I did too. Shontelle looked her leggy best in her tight sequined dress with green and silver trim. She performed her massive radio hit Impossible, singing to a backing track and proving she had the chops with an incredible acappella finish. We all went wild. Shontelle is no flash in the pan. She is a Barabados native that was discovered while attending the University of the West Indies. She’s huge in the UK and opened for Beyonce on her I Am…Tour in 2009 and she will open for Kevin Rudolph on his 2010 To the Sky Tour.

Iyaz was all over the stage with the most athletic performance of the evening. He sang his hits Replay, This Boy-That Girl and So Big and bits and pieces of other songs like eenny-meenie-miny-moe lover. He was all over the stage with a super-hero nuclear charged energy. He sang and rapped and teased and brought the kids to the edge of ecstasy. He had ‘em dancing and signifying like Michael Franti at Bonnarroo. He had us jump for freedom and preached a compelling message of peace & love – hi hater/bye hater. Great theatrics; great message. Iyaz was billed as one of the headliners.

White Tie Affair is truly on top of their game, musically speaking. The singer Chris Wallace is the defacto leader of the group and a great frontman. He has an outstanding voice with a three octave range and possesses an extremely high likeability quotient. He is so charming he was able to fumble his way through a couple of missteps when he tossed out the F-bomb – a true no-no in a show geared to teens and pre-teens. He recovered quickly and found his rhythm. The teens didn’t mind his faux pas as much as the adults did… eff-em, Chris. After all these cats are from the mean streets of Obama-land-Chicago. They do not suffer fools gladly. They sang their glorious MTV hits Allow Me to Introduce Myself and Candle (Sick and Tired). Their music is a pop-punk hybrid that is loud and sassy and accessible to a wide audience from pre-teens to 30 something adults. They have earned their road hog dues performing with Lady Gaga and hitting the road on the incredibly successful Warped Tour. Great band!

Kevin Rudolf was the surprise hit of this year’s Lizard Fair. He simply stole the show, overwhelming the competition with his incredible craft and virtuosity. He is a great singer and a muscular guitar player who can riff with the best of them. His music is based in twelve bars blues but he hops between genres with a seamless felicity. Rap, blues, hip-hop, rock. He can do it all. He performed his own material including the genre hopping gems I Made It (the official theme for Wrestle Mania XXVI), Let it Rock (the theme for WWE’s 2009 Royal Rumble), and Welcome to the World. You know that if the wrestling community likes your music it’s gotta rock, roll and thunder. He’s collaborated with Lil Wayne, Kid Cudi, Flo Rida and Birdman. Rudolf is a noted performer, songwriter, producer and guitarist. A 4-star musician.

The headliner Boys Like Girls closed out the evening. Their brand of power pop rock & roll and punk goes down well with a wide demographic ranging from teens to adults. They’ve been around since 2005 and through constant touring hit the mainstream by 2008. The focal point is vocalist Martin Johnson. His powerful tenor soars and moans and brings an almost Beatlesque/Green Day quality to the songs. He even looks like Billie Joe Armstrong. They have toured the states and the UK with the Fall Out Boys, Metro Station, and Good Charlotte. They performed their well-known hits Love Drunk, The Great Escape, and Thunder. Despite an interlude of musical/computer based experimentation that was a bit meandering, their set was well received. Another great performance.

Lizard fair delivered the goods and the mixed crowd of teens and adults joined hands in showing their appreciation for a great night for music and dancing. It was a liberating event that crossed the chasm of generations and united us for on great shining moment in which we enjoyed a shared experience.

Bo White

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