“Sometimes small parties are the best parties,” joked Richard Andrew, known to most as hip-hop partier Outasight, during his Aug. 31 evening show as part of the State Fair’s Midway Concert Series. Intimacy was the theme, as only a spare fairgoer or two stopped by to take in the emcee’s entire set. This didn’t seem to bother the Yonkers native too much, though. Outasight persevered, fueled by a catalog of poppish rap picker-uppers and a clump of enthused young women near the stage.
Clad in salmon jeans, a gray T-shirt and a jean jacket—sweatiness was a common topic for stage banter—the rapper, along with DJ Sixth Sense, ran through a nice swath of dance jams. “Stays the Same,” a bubbling club track about the perils of apathy, was laced with snippets of “Thriller” and Duffy’s “Mercy.” Outasight performed “Ready, Set, Go” while wearing an audience member’s furry mouse hat.
“Now or Never” flowed into the show closer, “Tonight is the Night,” the emcee’s biggest hit. The song has held a spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for 18 weeks and was, most notably, used in a Pepsi ad campaign. Outasight prefaced the beat by giving his thanks to the crowd: “Sing along if you know this one.”
At the end of the show near the autograph tent, a fan approached Outasight. She apologized for the Midway’s meager stage. “You’re too big for this,” she said. The rapper smiled and replied, “I’m happy to play anywhere.”
Sugar and Spice
The crowd was light, barely spotting the benches lined before the New York State Fair’s Chevy Court on Sept. 3, as the mellow, traditional Native American songs of Joanne Shenandoah preceded an afternoon show featuring the upbeat country music of Candy Coburn. Shenandoah, her sister Diane and her daughter Leah brought a minimalist, but beautiful set to life with only a drum, guitar, shaker and their voices in harmony.
Shenandoah talked at length between sets explaining the tunes they chose to perform and their upcoming trip to Rome, Italy, for the canonization ceremony of the first Mohawk saint, Katerie Tekakwitha, on Oct. 21. She also explained the important role of women in the Iroquois way, saying that women choose the chiefs and leaders and determine when terms of office are over. She laughed softly when she mentioned that she once said that during a performance at the White House.
The quick, half-hour set was defined by Shenandoah’s smooth vocals, always perfectly on point and complemented by her family members. Her gentle speaking voice contrasted with her strong, sturdy vocalizing, as she kept listeners reeled in. The crowd gave her a standing ovation at the end, which was rounded out by the powerful “Eagle Cries.”
After a 15-minute changeover the bubbly Candy Coburn hopped onto the stage. She comes across as a darker Carrie Underwood wannabe, dressed all in black and leather with dark brownish-black hair curled around her face. She’s beautiful, charming and appreciative of her audience, but her nasal, heavily pushed vocals didn’t do the trick. Most of her songs were painfully generic pop-country, offering little distinction between her and the army of similarly beautiful female country singers, except she can’t quite keep up with those she imitates.
She dove into a few covers such as Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee”; she made it through the hefty vocals, but didn’t quite do it justice. Coburn also offered a countrified version of Cee-Lo Green’s “Forget You,” as she asked the audience not to tell her grandmother what the real lyrics of the profane song are—because the 83-year-old loves Cee-Lo.
After the concert, Coburn invited fans over to the merchandise tent to say hello and offered one pink tie-wearing friend her dating help. “I’m on a mission to find you a nice girl,” Coburn said from the stage. “We’re the Candy Coburn Show and Dating Service.” Even if she can’t quite hit the notes just right, at least she can help guys score a date.
In One Ear
The State Fair’s Midway Music Series ended on a droning note on Sept. 2, as Poughkeepsie pop-punks We Are the In Crowd offrered more bratty, you-pushed-me-down-in-gym-class-for-the-last-time choruses than Fueled By Ramen has in its master recording database.
After some enthusiastic mike-checking by an excited roadie, the band’s five members took their places on stage with guitar distortion buzzing in the background. Drummer Rob Chianelli then began pummeling his kit and guitarist Cameron Hurley laid down a snaky lead-line. The time machine switched on, unfortunately, as We Are the In Crowd spent the next hour or so running through almost every song in their catalog, including cuts from their 2011 debut full-length Best Intentions and a few tracks from their 2010 EP Guaranteed to Disagree.
Tay Jardine’s singing was inaudible at times, as she was either drowned out by her bandmates or held the microphone too far away from her face. Jardine had one or two nice vocals, though; her rendition of “For the Win” was especially solid. Guitarist Jordan Eckes picked up some of the vocal slack, as his Patrick Stump-ish delivery took the edge off Jardine’s pitchier spots.
Hurley and Chianelli were both consistently good. Hurley’s delayed lead during “Exits and Entrances” brought the Edge to mind. Chianelli stayed locked in the pocket and kept any unnecessary drum heroics to a minimum. Yet despite some moments of good musicianship, the songs sounded the same: bland and fast.
Near the end of the show, bassist Mike Ferri pulled an audience member up on stage for some pig-calling lessons. Ferri and the young fan screeched into their microphones as Jardine looked on slightly annoyed. A banner on the wall at the back of the stage read “GLMR KILLS.”
When Jack “Penetrator” Lipton, Isreal Hagan and Mark Doyle teamed up in June to record the obscure Sam & Dave tune, “Broke Down Piece of Man,” most could have guessed that the combination would be deadly—in a good way. The track comes alive with Lipton’s rough, raspy, yet soulful vocals, Hagan’s perfectly smooth pipes and dependably grooving bass lines and Doyle’s impeccable skills as a producer and session man (he plays several instruments on the track).
But less predictable was the track’s ascension to the No. 1 spot on CDBaby.com’s Urban/R&B-Memphis Soul chart, an impressive feat considering the site is the world’s largest online distributor of independent music. More than 300,000 artists sell their music on the site and compete for spots on charts like the one that this Central New York trio topped on Sept. 7.
“We were all surprised, but happy,” Lipton says. “We were not expecting that.”
While the original 1967 Sam & Dave version glides through thanks to the duo’s signature retro soul, the unique pairing of Hagan and Lipton gives the old song a modern feel, mixing the rhythm’n’blues crooner with the rock’n’roller. The addition of Doyle seals the deal and their spot at the top proves it.
Lipton notes that more may be on the way from the trio including a possible album and live shows. Stay tuned.