nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
August 19, 2008
Rich Ferguson is a spoken word artist with loads of psychedelic passion. His energy is only a mild shock but it's enough to keep you listening. However, the energy of his partner, Paul Garrison, shocks and rocks the show with a trippy soundscape that sounds as cool as it is to watch him play it.
Nightlight Jesus is a seamless series of spoken word pieces that run along with live music. Ferguson is dressed in grungy jeans, a t-shirt/flannel combo and a big, floppy straw farmer's hat. His delivery is that same sort of spoken word pattern where there's a little reverb in the mic and he tends to elongate a syllable or, for the really meaningful moments, he uses...a lot...of...long...pauses. But he also has hints of a rap style delivery and he sings a little. His commentary is mainly a look at pop culture and sub-cultures. He makes references to drug culture and violence in our society. He talks politics in lines such as "It's time we looked in the mirror and see what the dirty bomb sees!" He talks about himself in lines like "So much of my day / living like a splinter / like a winter / under my skin." Ferguson's poetics are good. He does well juxtaposing an array of ideas. His delivery is tight and his belief in his work is clear. I didn't hear any words that inspired me in particularly, but then again, I did lose a good portion of them because Ferguson's vocals were a little low in the mix with the music.
Musician Paul Garrison is extremely charismatic and completely into every beat he puts out. He is dressed in punk rock regalia with tall Doc Marten boots and a faux-hawk with red tips. He is at the helm of an arsenal of electronics and he has an electric guitar strapped to him. There are five or six pedals at his feet, a laptop on a sheet music stand, other devices spread out on a piano next to him, and finally, some sort of touch-controlled effects box hanging at his hip. When he's at the height of action, it almost looks like he has four arms. His sound is like house music or trip hop with some rockin' and grinding moments in there too. They describe it as "chainsaw music for angels." His performance is really fun to watch. He's all over the place setting levels and triggering sounds and striking the guitar strings and rubbing on the box at his hip. His sound lifts the spoken words up to another much more interesting level.
It was good to see something different...something I hadn't seen in a long time. I do remember seeing spoken words shows in the mid '90s and I noticed that not much had changed. At least not in Nightlight Jesus. I did really like the music in this show and I think the art of spoken word is something that needs to be preserved. If you're looking for something a little different in this year's FringeNYC, this may be a good choice for you.