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Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Let’s Put on A Show!

The performing arts often require a dual effort: the creation of works that stand alone as recorded songs or other media meant for posterity and the task of presenting these works in a way that embellishes or complements them – usually publicly, usually in real-time.

The pursuit to entertain, intrigue or move audiences (and in an age of endless entertainment, no less) requires a complex arsenal of skill, deep passion, a tad bit of bravery and a certain amount of benign madness.

On Saturday, May 13, the stage of the Caddo Common Park brought out some of Shreveport’s most ambitious and most exciting talent, who came ready to brave the crowds, critics and burning afternoon heat.

The participants of Critical Mass’ performance arts competition were allowed 15 minutes each to show why they were worthy of the big win: a cash prize of $5,000 and, perhaps even more invaluable, the committed mentorship of three critics separated each into individual categories.

I had the honor of judging the performing arts portion of the event. Sampling Shreveport’s talent in a stacked showcase in a few hours was as much a treat as it was a tall order.

Many of the contestants proved their place in the running. All of nearly a dozen performers put on confident and distinctly personal shows. But four participants stood out in particular.

The first was Mack Swans, who kept the crowd’s attention with a performance honoring those we’ve lost, including his own father. The young hip-hop artist delivered his lyrics with conviction, his words flowing rhythmically with terrifically attuned musicality. Swans’ songs are impressive in their pristine production, and his clever rhymes hit on themes ranging from violence to the metaphysical.

Just as expansive was the act by SuDenim, whose high-drama monologue in drag captivated the audience with a vaudeville act stitched through with humor, theatricality and whimsy. The artist created a pretty spectacular moment with little more than paper and Heelys shoes; we can only imagine what SuDenim could achieve with a greater budget.

Yung Melody was an indisputable critic standout. He owned his space on stage with a great physical presence and charisma, dropping clever wordplay into his spoken word/musical act, his rap performance anchored with the weight of his lyricism.

The big winner of the performing arts category was QMajor the Violinist, whose inspired playing kept the crowd’s eyes and ears peeled to his instrumental performance.

The young artist brings a hip-hop sensibility to a classical performance, and his boundless potential showed during his Critical Mass set. QMajor has been playing for well over a decade and is a prolific live performer and a frequent collaborator involved in various pockets of the Shreveport artistic scene.

Beyond his stylistic versatility, QMajor showed his range with the instrument itself, playing the violin on a loop and plucking its strings into a fine pizzicato.

Ultimately, he was chosen as a winner because he showed exactly who he is as an artist while giving us the joy of dreaming up the different possibilities for his music. It also doesn’t hurt that he makes classical music cool.

Eva Raggio is the music and culture editor of the Dallas Observer.


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