Thursday, July 17, 2008

Performance Therapy

July 17 2008

Two weeks is an unforgivable hiatus when it comes to blogging, not in a moral sense, but just for the fact that anyone who might have been paying attention prior to the sabbatical will likely have lost interest and found ample entertainment elsewhere, which for an entertainer is an unforgivable transgression. Loss of audience is loss of lifeblood.

Wait! I'm still here, and still putting everything I've got into this creative monster dubbed Lit-Hop. For the past two weeks I was holed up in Brighton, in a spare room at Dizraeli's house, in a frenzy of preparation, rehearsal, and recording. Several landmarks were passed, including the first performance of the Rebel Cell last Thursday at the Brighton Komedia, part of the "Hammer & Tongue" night at the Rising Styles Hip-hop Festival. The day before we were anxiously rehearsing, fine-tuning our scripts and music and lighting cues etc, feeling the mounting thrill and also worry around the first performance of a show we have worked on for about eight months now. Up until that point, we had only done run-throughs in private, in Dizraeli's living room, or in a borrowed rehearsal space about a pub in Brighton. The big questions still loomed: would it work? would it be funny? would people relate?

Thursday's show was pure catharsis in this regard. The house was packed, mostly with people we knew but also with many we didn't, a large space with well over a hundred people seated cabaret style with drinks at tables. Long story short, the show went down a storm, got huge laughs, and we had the overwhelming experience of greeting people in the foyer afterwards and having many spontaneous hugs and handshakes from people expressing a range of emotions about the experience, of which disdain was not one. Even the hip-hop heads were with it, which for us was the highest compliment we could have gotten.

The other thing Diz & I have been up to over the past few weeks is putting the finishing touches on the album version of the show, spending endless twelve-hour sessions holed up in the studio with Mr. Simmonds, the producer, engineer, and general mastermind of the musical side of "The Rebel Cell" LP. Amazingly, I only met Mr. Simmonds six weeks ago when I first arrived in England, although I had heard his beats on the Gentleman's Club myspace page and was well impressed. Well, Mr. Simmonds turned out to be a fan of the Rebel Cell concept as well, and agreed to do some beats for us, and then he did some more, and in the end he has produced eleven out of the twenty tracks on the album, including The Fallout, which is currently up on our Mud Sun myspace page for your listening pleasure.

Improbably, we now have a twenty-track album version of the Rebel Cell completed, recorded and produced entirely over the past six weeks, and all that remains now is the mixing and mastering and manufacture, which I have left in Mr. Simmonds' capable hands. Yesterday we finished the last track, arrangement and recording wise, and I struck out for London, packing my life once again into the suitcase for another round of touring of rural England.
The album will be released no later than the end of the month, perhaps with a launch date on the 30th to correspond with our first preview in Edinburgh. But as soon as I have a final master I will add it to the discography on my website so that people can experience this futuristic fantasy in all its glory.

Last night we performed The Rebel Cell for the second time only, and the show is definitely getting more fun to perform each go. We sold out the Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden (no mean feat with a capacity of 50) and the response was, once again, quite intense. But then, the show is quite intense and very personal, allowing us both to go to places that sometimes don't even feel safe in conversation, never mind in front of a crowd. That's entertainment I guess, and it's also therapeutic. Sacred cows are better mocked than worshiped in my view, or perhaps both, but certainly not the latter on its own.

Speaking of sacred cows, I'm departing for Cambridge in a few hours to return to more familiar ground with the Rap Canterbury Tales. A program called "The Oxbridge Experience" brings American and International high school students to England to absorb British culture through a series of field trips, and before they embark on their pilgrimage to Canterbury the students will be treated to the Canadian bastardization of Chaucer's Tales. And in the news, Canterbury is currently a place where still more sacred cows are being debated, what with the Anglican flap over women bishops and homosexual bishops, naturally a turn of events that is morally opposed by misogynists and homophobes. To paraphrase Bill Hicks: "Women priests? Great, so now there are priests of both sexes I don't listen to, big deal! Show me a hermaphrodite priest with three titties and trunk, now there's a sermon I'll attend..." Amen.

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