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Five BOOM Artists to Watch in 2019

Charlotte’s favorite fringe arts festival, BOOM Charlotte, is back in Plaza Midwood this weekend. Check out our talk with founder Manoj Kesavan for more details on the return of BOOM, but also be sure to check out these five first-time acts that we’re excited to check out. 

The Professor (All photos courtesy of BOOM Charlotte)

The Professor: Life of an Artist
Where: Snug Harbor
When: April 26, 8 p.m.; April 27, 6:30 p.m.; April 28, 2 p.m.
Admission: $10

The Professor is a pompous arts expert who delights in towering over his audiences. We mean that literally. Nathan Matthews, Oscar Soto and Michael Gentry’s Life of an Artist presents a lecture by the eight-and-a-half-foot-tall academic, portrayed by Matthews wearing an elongated paper-mâché mask.

The Professor is a satire of the practices and ideals that high art and higher education scramble into the brains of young adults, Matthews says. With equal doses of obvious irony and veiled affection, Life of an Artist celebrates humans’ crazy quest to bare their souls and express their creativity.

Matthews, who participated in the previous two BOOM fests as the drummer for musical/theatrical band Mall Goth, is pulling a double shift this year. In addition to the Professor, the percussionist is presenting at To be Sure at Rabbit Hole.

In this participatory musical performance, audiences will contribute sounds, textures and energy to adaptations of classic deep-listening pieces by John Cage, Pauline Oliveros and others, Matthews explains. Though To be Sure’s approach is radically different from the Professor’s, both performances celebrate the dissolution of the barriers between performer and audience that animates BOOM.

“A masked, unblinking, manifestation of everything wrong with creative society might as well be screaming at us our whole lives,” Matthews says of the pedantic Professor. “I’m sorry I can only give you 50 minutes.”

Jason Jet

Jason Jet: Electro Soul Music
Where: The Intersection
When: Sunday, 2:45-3:10 p.m.
Admission: Free

Music runs in Jason Jet’s family. His father is a jazz and gospel artist and growing up Jet fell in love with neo soul from artists like Musiq Soulchild and ’80s pop and rock including Sting, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel and Maxwell. The Iceland native and Charlotte resident has spun his passion into sensuous and quicksilver performances. Alongside his band The Kru, Jet has shared stages with Anthony Hamilton, 9th Wonder and the likes. Long an advocate for bringing creative people together to collaborate, Jet sees BOOM as a crucial piece of the process of bringing Charlotte’s fragmented pockets of artistic activity together.

“Programming like [BOOM] has to happen to take our city to get to the next level,” he says. “Some real game changers are making our city pop, [and] I think in the next two to three years Charlotte is going to be the next city to break amazing talent.”

At a Jason Jet performance, the audience becomes part of the show, he continues. At previous gigs he’s been known to hand out CDs, invite the audience to engage in sing-alongs and even toss model jet airplanes out into the crowd.

Yuhas & Dancers

Marcus Amaker, Yuhas & Dancers: Physical Poetry
Where: Open Door Studios
When: April 26, 9 p.m.; April 27, 10 p.m.; April 28, 6:30 p.m.
Admission: $10

In a world where Donald Trump’s presidency has emboldened bigots and brought a rise in hate crimes across the country, this collaboration between a poet and a dance company from South Carolina proposes humility as the answer. Marcus Amaker, the poet laureate of Charleston, collaborates with Columbia-based dance company Yuhas & the Dancers (Y&D) for this 45-minute performance that expresses yearning for a safe space to live freely around a multiplicity of labels: black, gay, female and more. The performance was awarded Most Inspiring Act at the 2019 Asheville Fringe Arts Festival.

Led by Meredith Yuhas, Y&D is a collective made up of 14 women of all shapes, sizes and colors. It’s not all about dance for Y&D, but advocating for body confidence, starting honest conversations and confronting inequality, specifically in regards to the socio-cultural norms of the South. The group continues this work beyond the stage, hosting community workshops in kinesthetic empathy and embodied activism.

Rhythmic Soul Dance Company

Rhythmic Soul Dance Company: Rhythmic Soul
Where: The Intersection
When: April 27, 1 p.m.
Admission: Free

Rhythmic Soul Dance Company is a Charlotte-based group that specializes in jazz, funk, hip-hop, creative dance, international dance, musical theater, HBCU-style majorette dance and even has a youth step team that ensures the young’uns will be ready to carry the torch for the future. The team is led by master instructor Siobhan Washington. Washington also works as a step instructor with Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., and held leadership positions with the Livingstone College Marching Band and Norfolk State University’s award-winning Xclusive Dance Competition Team.

Like Y&D, Washington makes sure RSCD has an impact on communities that goes beyond dance and education. She provides the members of RSDC with a path to positive thinking through girl-talk sessions and social skill building. “It’s about life experience and self-love,” Washington says.

Kimmothy Cole & Paul W. Kruse: The Sacrament of Reconciliation
Where: The Underground Truffle
When: April 27, 7 p.m.-10 p.m.April 28, 10:30 a.m.
Admission: $10

Even by BOOM’s iconoclastic standards, The Sacrament of Reconciliation is an outlier. Utilizing live-action role play (LARP) and ritual as art forms, co-creators Cole and Kruse craft a participatory piece based on the Catholic Sacrament of Reconciliation, better known as Confession. But while confessing your sins to a priest merely reinforces guilt and fosters violence, hierarchy and control over justice, Cole says, their interactive Sacrament approaches accountability as a path to reconciliation.

That’s a tall order in a society where apologies, especially those from the powerful, have become meaningless. Cole and Kruse allow six to eight participants to drive the piece. After sitting together at a table where they read a text prepared by Cole and Kruse, the participants then make a loaf of bread, answer questions, meditate, hold hands, eat and drink, Cole explains. Due to seating restrictions, people are urged to purchase tickets in advance.
“[They] move through a process that asks them to be present in the ways in which they need forgiveness and the places where they need to offer forgiveness,” Cole continues.

The Sacrament is a two- to three-hour transformative ritual, an invitation to experience vulnerability and joy within an intimate group. Cole hopes the piece will encourage people to replicate this emotional experience in their homes with the simple ingredients of flour, salt, water, yeast and honey. Cole and Kruse believe an experience not accessible to everyone is neither radical nor revolutionary.

Visit the BOOM website for a full schedule of performers.

[Ryan Pitkin contributed to this story.]

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