On Saturday night, UCSB group Kapatirang Pilipino’s benefit talent showcase went from sublime to tragically ridiculous.
The first on the long bill of performers was spoken word artist and UCSB freshman Demi Anter (full disclosure: Demi is a staff writer for Artsweek), who did a piece on the beauty of life contrasting over-privileged hipster-dom and global childhood poverty. Right, it all started out completely normal and appropriate.
Next up was Sydney Sagisi, a 13-year-old vocalist from Lakewood who did not look her age. However, her youth manifested itself during her performance, as her rapport and comfort with the surprisingly large audience seemed a bit tense. Her voice had a breathiness remnant of 1950s saloon singers and it was evident she had talent, despite her Top 40 repertoire. The next few acts followed a similar theme, with a Ventura county middle school dance crew creating a pretty adorable excitement and another spoken word piece by Jessica Oropesa on the impact of teachers in secondary education.
Another notable performance that certainly got the crowd talking was spoken word artist Chanel Miller. What started out as a mundane story of her awkward conversation with her boyfriend’s father turned into a justification for speaking up for oneself and not always being the “nice” girl. She also talked in somewhat gory depth about how she’d like to castrate a man who sexually violated her friend. After going into the disturbing and lengthy details of her imagined plans for him, she ended with “And to top it off … I’ll shoot it.” The audience erupted in laughter.
The UCSB U.R.B.A.N. dance crew followed, and the performers’ confidence and savvy costume choice reflected this hip hop crew’s 20-year existence. Unfortunately, due to its popularity among hip hop dancers, the large number of dancers crowded the stage. When the group performed a number of catchy tunes, including Shwayze’s “Buzzin’,” it became clear with fewer individuals (or a larger stage), the group’s entire performance could have been more aesthetically pleasing. Still, they skillfully managed to remain in sync and manipulate the space with professional ease.
Then the Polynesian dance club performed, and things got a little kooky. While it was baffling and somewhat delightful to look on as a group of scantily clad men in sarongs taught the audience a hip-shaking, pelvic-thrusting dance called the “Fruit Salad,” the awkward incongruence between this performance and a social-issues themed spoken word piece became pretty obvious.
The last two acts, respectively, were performances from vocal performers Reynard Silva and Erika David, who not-so-surprisingly, were extremely similar. Silva, clad in a leather jacket and flannel, opened his act with some smooth-talking audience banter and went quickly into his original tunes, which kind of ran together but did include the lyrics “Are you cool with me?” and “UC Santa Barbara say Yee-uh.” Oh, but it’s okay: He justified it all in one of his final songs with “I know that’s so cliché, but I’m gonna sing it anyway.” Thank you, Reynard, for choosing not to spare us.
Then, Erika David — and what a finale she was. Dressed as a cross between Britney Spears and Alexa Chung, David’s repertoire consisted of songs both covered and original, revolving around the theme of…love? One of her first songs was a cover of Keri Hilson’s “Pretty Girl Rock,” and she at least had the row of men in front of me convinced, as I had an excellent earshot of them giggling to themselves as she sashayed across the stage. Another highlight of her performance was an original tune, unofficially known as “Imma Make You Work for It” mainly because she repeated that lyric once every 10 seconds. Then, she politely asked the audience to wave their cell phones in the air. Ah yes, Ms. David, you did make us really, really work for it.
The beginning of the show was enjoyable. The spoken word was touching, funny and interesting, the middle-school dance crews were talented and badass and U.R.B.A.N. certainly rocked the stage with their confidence and skill. The event was first and foremost a benefit, and perhaps dissecting the talent of each individual act seems unnecessary. Kapatirang Pilipino certainly succeeded in achieving its main goal: creating an entertaining show and attracting a large audience whose ticket money went to the SOS Children’s Village charity. That being said: Erika David? Come on guys, you can do better than that.