Saturday night in Costa Mesa, and the Segerstrom Center for the Arts is bustling in all arenas of the vast complex for the second evening of the Off Center Festival showcases. Distracted by the overwhelming beauty of the architecture around, I accidentally begin to walk through the live art experience consisting of about 30 cars set in three long rows, all inhabited by lively people as if they were stuck on the dreaded 405 Freeway right at 5:00pm. After politely being asked to walk around the exhibit, I find my way to the somewhat hidden entrance of the Founders Hall, which consists of a wide blacked-out room filled with 50 tables, 200 seats, and modernly chic stage.
Photo By Jenavieve Belair
As the usher leads me to my final destination, the local electronic-hip-hop act consisting of three siblings, Blok, is already entrancing the expanding audience. The solo sister, Gianna, gazes deep into each member of the crowd, seducing them with her eyes, primal screaming, and contorted dance steps. Lead vocalist Damien never teeters out of rhythm, despite the extreme challenge he has given himself to cleanly express quick syllables of theosophical inscriptions that fly off of his flickering tongue in rapid succession. Jesse, the final brother, gyrates in succession with his sister, occasionally stepping up to the mic to produce intense vocal-stylings of his own. Usually a Blok performance is more wildly outlandish, and to see them semi-contained and semi-choreographed truly amplified their true talent as standout performers. This trio, standing on the simple, black stage of the Founders Hall, appeared more like a moving, breathing, controversial piece of art, and the audience applauded energetically to show their appreciation.
Photos by Jenavieve Belair
Comedian Reggie Watts is a freak of nature, even though he looks like an average guy with a massive afro-puff. Throughout his hour-long comedy and musical performance, I continuously desired the chance to stick him in a laboratory and study the physical phenomenon that are his perfectly-pitched vocal cords. Creating his own beat-box harmonies on a looping pedal, Watts hovers over his gadgetry until he finds the perfect rhythm. His soulful style of singing could make any Motown artist blush, however Watts is not aiming to charm, but to constantly tease. Aside from his musical talent, Watts’ ability to create rhythmic intellectual, although sometimes non-sensible, rhetoric on the fly is clever and confusing and mind-altering and semi-offensive—but the crowd always laughs at the genius of the entertainer that stands before them. Watts could discuss any issue—political, social, personal—and in the blink of an eye, he can alter his voice, persona, and topic seamlessly—and the crowd continuously roars with laughter until the very end.
Photo by Jenavieve Belair
The Off Center Festival continues all week until Saturday, January 21st, hosting such acts as the Mexican Institute of Sound, The Word Begins (a mash-up of hip-hop, poetry, and spoken word), and Ten Tiny Dances. For the full schedule click here.
Mexican Institute of Sound
The Car Plays – Arts Plaza
January 14, 15, 20 & 21 at 5:30, 7 and 8:30 p.m.
ReEntry – Founders Hall
January 18 – 20 at 8 p.m.
The Word Begins – Nicholas Studio at South Coast Repertory (655 Town Center Drive)
January 19 – 21 at 8 p.m.
Ten Tiny Dances – Samueli Theater
January 20 & 21 at 7:30 p.m.
Mexican Institute of Sound – Founders Hall
January 21 at 10 p.m.; doors open at 8 p.m.; opening act Nancy Sanchez at 8:30 p.m.; Mexican Institute of Sound at 10 p.m.
Starving Artists Lounge at Leatherby’s Cafe Rouge January 13 – 15 and January 18 – 21
600 and 615 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, CA
Segerstrom Center for the Arts
Tickets: Single tickets: $20
Multi-show packages with tickets at the low price of $10
In person - The Box Office
600 Town Center Drive
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Open 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. daily
Online - SCFTA.org
Phone - (714) 556-2787
Open 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. daily
TTY number - (714) 556-2746
Group Sales - (714) 755-0236