Topsy Turvy: A bright star in dark times

Brandi Amara Skyy reviews the Turtle Creek Chorale’s “Topsy Turvy” concert, continuing tonight and Saturday night, March 24-25, at City Performance Hall. (Photos courtesy Turtle Creek Chorale)

 

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

Call me a bad gay, but I had never been to a Turtle Creek Chorale concert before last night.

Not knowing what I was getting myself into, I texted a few of my closest friends who are devoted fans (and season ticket holders) to get a feel for what to expect. My good friend Dana said, “You’re in for a nice surprise. They always combine serious with comedic moments.”

He was right.

The evening was filled with … surprises — something that in this day and age of the internet is not necessarily what we expect. It’s far too easy to Google the happenings of the latest episode of our favorite shows prior to even the show airing the first time, let alone us watching it. Or to attend a show and be moved by the visuals, but not by the message.

So when I received the email with the set list being performed last evening (the names are not supposed to be known to the audience until after the show has ended), I made the decision not to open it. Because if Sean Baugh, the artistic director, wanted me to ride the wave and be surprised, I wasn’t about to deny him — or myself — the pleasure of this rarity.

And in this arena — the element of surprise — Topsy Turvy is a massive win. From song inclusion to talent to flow, Topsy Turvy does what it sets out to do — not just tell a story, but create and share an experience.

The Chorale promises “one of the most energetic and full-force arrays of musical selections our audience has ever experienced,” and I can feel, based on the audience’s energy and attention (minus the blonde wine-gulping girl sitting two seats to my left who completely ignores Rule No. 2 (Don’t Sing Along) when the finale hits) that this particular show and evening is in fact, different from all the rest.

I feel it too, even though I have no prior knowledge to compare it to.

But I’m not going to lie, this is probably the hardest review I’ve ever had to write because I refuse to spoil the experience by referring to the songs in the show by their name. So I will only reference them by the number in which they appear in the show.

The Topsy Turvy experience is billed as songs you thought you knew, and they drove that artistic theme home by reshaping pop, musical and LGBTQ classics into arrangements and styles we’ve never heard before (I’m thinking about songs 14 and 18 in particular). The visuals, the big top and all the dancers are stunning. And B.J. Cleveland is not only excellent and captivating as our ringleader, he is right there to help usher us through the two-hour experience (although I did miss him in the beginning of the second half).

The Thursday audience, teased for being the least vocal of the three-day bunch, rose to their feet for a song (hint: No. 5) and I rose for one as well (you’ll know it when you experience it). My personal favorites? Numbers 4, 5, 9,14, 17, 19, 21 (and a certain “whistler” in No. 3). These seven pieces were elegantly thought out, choreographed, and fully realized — and executed.

And while the soloists were spectacular, every single chorale member stole my heart that evening because they were so full of love for what they do. You could see it. But more importantly you could feel it.

Were some pieces in Topsy Turvy more successful than others? Yes. Were some pieces more polished? Yes. Is there room for improvement? Always.

But did the TCC deliver on their promises? Hell, yea — and then some.

What I love most about attending events, shows, and art in our community is just that. WE are a community. And both Bruce Jaster and Sean Baugh made sure to drive that point home to the audience every chance they got. And with all the talk about arts funding being cut and walls waiting to be built, we — I — needed to hear that as a community we are more inclusive now than ever.

Whether you are a devoted fan who has season tickets or you’re like me and new to the whole TCC experience, this show is a bright light in dark uncertain times, with just the right amount of camp, adult humor, laugher, nostalgia, and seriousness to keep me thoroughly invested — and entertained.

Topsy Turvy runs tonight and Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. at Dallas City Performance Hall.

Go.

Brandi Amara Skyy is a drag artist who writes and plays in magic. You can find out more about her and many projects at brandiamaraskyy.com.

—  Tammye Nash

Tickets go on sale Friday for September Kraftwerk concert in Dallas

KRAFTWERK 3D Der Katalog  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Kunstsammlung NRW Düsseldorf 2013

Kraftwerk’s 3-D Concerts tour comes to Dallas in September. (Photo by Peter Boettcher/Kraftwerk

Back in the early 1980s, Kraftwerk was one of my favorite bands (although “band” isn’t really the right word, I guess). I had the cassette of the album Computer World (listen below) and I played it til it fell apart.

Although Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider started their Kraftwerk Project in Dusseldorf, Germany in 1970 and had gained international recognition by the mid-70s, when I discovered the music, I didn’t know too many people who knew who/what Kraftwerk was, and fewer who shared my enthusiasm for their music.

These days, I spend most of my music-listening time tuned to my “Willie Nelson Station” on Pandora radio. But I still love breaking out the old Kraftwerk tunes every now and then. So I was kind of excited when I found a press release in my email inbox letting me know that the band will bring their 3-D Concerts Tour to Dallas in September.

Tickets go on sale Friday, April 29, at 10 a.m. at TheBombFactory.com for the show set for Saturday, Sept. 10 (at the Bomb Factory, of course).

This year’s nine-city U.S. tour brings back the 3-D Concerts show that won rave reviews last year, hyped as much as an art show as a musical concert. The tour starts Sept. 3 in Baltimore, then heads to Atlanta, Memphis and New Orleans before coming to Dallas. After the Dallas show, Kraftwerk heads to San Antonio, Phoenix and San Diego before wrapping up Sept. 18 in Los Angeles.

(Tickets for all the shows except the final one in L.A. go on sale this Friday.)

—  Tammye Nash

REVIEW: ‘This Is… Icona Pop’

HMO101413ICONAPOPIcona Pop, This Is … Icona Pop 

Icona Pop seemed destined to fall into one-hit-wonder obscurity after “I Love It” gained ubiquitous exposure via club play, commercial spots and (not even kidding) as the theme song for MTV’s Jersey Shore spinoff Snooki & JWoww. Their other chants couldn’t be that fun, that infectious, that delicious.

Except they are. The Swedish synth-pop duo of Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo — with their endearing, no-pretense irresistibility — could be your BFFs … if your BFFs wrote joyous dance-pop, bedroom-romping earworms; recorded “In the Stars,” a song that takes you to the sun; and had all the makings for one of the most exciting musical breakthroughs this year.

There’s really not a single miss on This Is …, unless you’re a sourpuss able to resist the nonstop rush of joyous synth bursts atop ’80s-inspired melodies. From bubbly second single “All Night” to “Then We Kiss,” a fun-loving coda with a Go-Go’s ilk, the girls keep the party balloons bouncing. And when they pop and fall to the floor — like on the lovelorn “Just Another Night,” the closest they come to a ballad, and its fight-song match “Hold On” — they strike a similar authenticity that expands their girls-next-door appeal. Yeah, even pop stars get broken hearts. As an introduction to Icona Pop, This Is … sounds both familiar and like nothing you’ve ever heard. It’s not a game changer, it won’t revolutionize pop music, but it’s fun and unforgettable. I love it, and I don’t care.

Four stars.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘Mama’s Party’ cabaret at Tucker’s Blues

Get your cabaret fix to start off the week

Even if it is the beginning of the work week or the new year, Monday nights are a Dallas must thanks to Amy Stevenson who hosts Mama’s Party. Every Monday, local musicians and actors come together for a night of song and for a mere pittance. Where else could you get an array of major stage talents performing an ample night of music for cheap? Oh, oh, we know the answer!

DEETS: Tucker’s Blues, 2617 Commerce St. 7 p.m. $5. MamasParty.com or look them up on Facebook.

—  Rich Lopez

“Would You Like Guys With That?” tonight at UTD

Youth in revolt

In his theater piece, Would You Like Guys With That, John Michael Colgin’s main character (himself, really) is a snobby kid, the product of private-schooling and a sense of entitlement; he becomes even more judgmental when he attends college in Stillwater, Okla. But then he goes to work at McDonald’s as a kind of social experiment, he begins to see the world anew: Just because he hates small-talk with his co-workers, he discovers that listening to different music doesn’t mean you’re not a human being. His show explores not only his coming out experience but the awkward time before and the self-realization after.

Read our interview with Colgin here.

DEETS: Davidson Auditorium — JSOM 1.118, 800 W. Campbell Road on the UTD Campus, Richardson. Jan 30. 5:30pm. Free. UTDallas.edu/womenscenter

—  Rich Lopez

DJ/producer Calvin Harris tonight at Zouk in Uptown

Nothing comes between you and your Calvin

DJ/producer Calvin Harris is one of the hottest guys in music right now. He’s only had three hit albums, worked with big time acts like Kylie and LMFAO and gay dance clubs can’t get enough of his and Rihanna’s “We Found Love.” Neither can the rest of the world as its topped the charts all over the globe. So, to see him up close and personal do what he does best should be a major treat, if not simply awesome.

DEETS: Zouk, 703 McKinney Ave. 10 p.m. FullAccessDallas.net.

—  Rich Lopez

LISTEN: Of Montreal’s “Dour Percentage”

Following up their music counterparts Scissor Sisters, Of Montreal drops a peek of its new album Paralytic Streaks which is slated for an early February release. Pitchfork posted the preview song “Dour Percentage” and linked to an interview with singer (and sexually liberated) Kevin Barnes about the album.

The band also hits the road this year coming to Dallas to play at Trees on March. 13.

Spin analyzed the hell out of the song here, but I thought it was an admirable effort. I don’t see too much of a difference as Spin does save for a lack of high energy punch, but it has that certain motif OM is famous for.

of Montreal – “Dour Percentage” by Some Kind of Awesome

—  Rich Lopez

Mi Diva Loca tonight at Sue Ellen’s

Livin’ la Diva Loca

Get your New Year on with Mel Arizpe and Laura Carrizales as Mi Diva Loca tonight. The partners in life and song turn top hits into their own with subtle rearrangements and way fab voices. Besides, live music should be your resolution for 2012.

DEETS: Sue Ellen’s, 3014 Throckmorton St. 7 p.m. SueEllensDallas.com.

—  Rich Lopez

DMN’s Eats Blog reports old Jack’s Backyard spot to become restaurant complex

Over on DMN’s Eats Blog, Kim Pierce reported that the guys behind Bolsa, Smoke and Bar Belmont in Oak Cliff have their sights set on the old Jack’s Backyard spot. The nightspot, which was owned by Kathy Jack, abruptly closed earlier this year amid controversy to the dismay of may gay patrons who partook in drink and live music. Now, according to Pierce, Christopher Jeffers and Smoke exec chef Tim Byres look to turn the venue’s spot — heck, the whole block — into a bar/restaurant complex. From DMN’s Eats Blog.

Christopher Jeffers‘ baby is the Chicken Scratch-Foundry complex that’s going to be another amazing addition to North Oak Cliff. It’s not just a bar (factory-themed Foundry) tied into a restaurant (family-friendly Chicken Scratch), it’s a whole city block, whose shambling structures date to the 1920s. He took me on a tour to show me the vision.

One of the main buildings, where Jack’s Backyard was cloistered on Pittman at Commerce, will house The Foundry, which will be the first of the complex to open January-ish.

Like Pierce said in her piece, ambitious plans. Indeed.

—  Rich Lopez