Poetry / Solo Performance
Poetry Slam came to Austin in 1994 as a series of qualifying events to perform in the spoken word tent at the Lollapalooza Festival. The next year, we made our first trip to the National Poetry Slam. I found a home and a community in slam and gained a lifetime of learning from it. Slam connected me to many of the most important people in my life, and I am happy to have played many roles in its growth and support.
Slam has evolved to a place that is almost unrecognizable from those first days, but it is still based on the same visceral, rare experience: one person rocking the mic and interacting with the audience. I believe that solo performance / monologue such as you find in slam, theater, and newer forums such as TED talks are among the most vital and transformative artistic experiences anywhere.
Working as a performer has also given me valuable perspectives, learning how the world looks from the stage, and probably best of all, how to connect with a live audience.
Some highlights from my performance history:
- Featured at many of the best
performance venues in the country, such as the Bowery Poetry Club (NYC), the
Starry Plough (Berkeley), The Crocodile (Seattle), The Green Mill (Chicago),
Bar 13 (NYC), Da Poetry Lounge (LA), the Launch Pad (Albuquerque).
- Best of Fest, Best of Week, and Wildcard selections at Hyde Park Theater’s annual FronteraFest fringe festival.
- Performed at numerous events
such as Nerd Nite, Encyclopedia Show Austin, The Soundtrack Series (Long Center for the
Performing Arts), and First Night Austin. Here's a link to a podcast featuring my story from The Soundtrack Series.
"I don't bug out or be acting ill / No tricks in '86, it's time to build / Eric be easy on the cut, no mistakes allowed / 'Cause to me, MC means move the crowd." -- Rakim (from Eric B is President)
A great show can be limited
in its success by having an average emcee. It’s about more than just putting someone up at a microphone
with a clipboard full of announcements and people to thank. The emcee is the connective
tissue and the DNA of the event.
The emcee needs to be clear in understanding that, while he is among the most important roles in the event, the show is not about him. He needs to be engaging, quick on his feet, and instantly likeable. You live in the one-liner and utilize a strong economy of language. Communicate and inform, make a connection with the audience while you do it, and keep the night moving. It’s about pace and process, combined with entertainment. Facilitate a great show, accomplish the goals of the event, and get it done on time.
I cut my teeth as an emcee running poetry slams. The energy and cadence of a good slam is unlike anything else, and is a great workout for an emcee to balance an ever-changing, unpredictable beast of an artistic performance with a ton of logistics and an actual game being played live. You have to be a combination of a gameshow host, standup comic, and cruise director. It’s fun.
Sample list of emcee work:
- Hosted literally hundreds of poetry slam and open mic events in Austin, on stages ranging from seedy dive bars to four shows (including three sell-outs) at the majestic 1,200 seat Paramount Theater and another at the 2,400-seat Dell Hall at the Long Center for the Performing Arts.
- Many years hosting large slam events at the National Poetry Slam, including the Individual, Team, and Group Piece Finals in cities across the country.
- Experienced charity event / fundraiser host for events such as Rude Mechanicals’ annual Eyeball and Austin Arthouse Fundraiser at the Jones Center for the Arts.
- Served as show host and barker for the Asylum Street Spankers on tour. Favorite memory: performing opening monologue for 5,000 fans under a circus tent at the Roskilde Festival (Netherlands) without the use of a microphone.
- Hosted a wide variety of shows and events at locations such as the Blanton Museum, Rollins Theater at the Long Center, the national Slam America Tour, Antone’s nightclub (Famecast.com Finals), and the fireworks / parade finale at First Night Austin.
I have played drums since the age of 14 and still consider it one of my greatest loves and releases. I’m a better person when I make music a priority in my life.
A few highlights:
- Asylum Street Spankers: spent two years performing in a world-class band featuring some of Austin’s most beloved and respected musicians. Toured the US and Europe, saw the workings ofvenues and festivals from the artists' perspective, and survived a near-death experience on a 1953 GMC tour bus, careening brakeless down a serpentine California mountainside.
- Past projects include: Speedy Colt, halfwatt, Wilt, Rip & Destroy (KISS tribute), Dizzy an AC / DC tribute band (Bon Scott era) called AC / ND, plus studio work, one-offs, and other musical undertakings.