featuring Jackie Cohen
August 2, 2018 at The Sinclair
You ever go to a show that just feels… awkward? Sometimes it’s just a visibly uncomfortable or inexperienced performer, an overall disengaged crowd, or an annoying heckler. Alex Cameron’s show at the Sinclair unfortunately contained all three, making for an interesting show that was downright cringe-worthy at moments.
Alex Cameron’s music is meant to be uncomfortable. A friend of mine described the sound of his newest album Forced Witness as “music for 40-year-old women,” thanks to its 80s synth-pop sound and heavy saxophone. On the other hand, his lyrics are anything but docile. Forced Witness forces the listener to bear witness to the “baroque clusterfuckery of the world” by telling stories from the perspective of misfits, assholes, and total creeps. The result is happy sounding music with vulgar lyrics – a weird disparity that lies somewhere between funny and off-putting.
Much like Forced Witness, the show felt off-putting. Opener Jackie Cohen began with an honest admission of her inexperience, stating that she’d just learned how to tune her guitar and use a pick. The rawness and honesty was somewhat refreshing and helped her connect with the crowd, but it ended up feeling overly apologetic. Women are taught too often to apologize for their behavior and it stung seeing another young woman feel the need to keep saying sorry and justifying her actions. It’s okay to be nervous, but an industry as cutthroat as the entertainment can easily eat up artists who don’t exude self-assurance. I’d love to see where she goes from here and watch her become more comfortable. She has potential, and her recorded music is great, but this show didn’t display it well.
Alex Cameron and cult-favorite saxophonist Roy Molloy both had a bit of a tough time on stage as well. Molloy looked bored sitting on his stool for most of the performance, only coming alive for some bangin’ saxophone solos and to review the aforementioned stool. He gave it a 3 out of 5, by the way. Cameron juxtaposed Molloy’s silence with very high energy – the man danced his heart out. I’ve never seen a performer so into their dance moves, and it was incredibly fun to watch. But when it came time to talk to the crowd, he still couldn’t stand still. Next to Molloy’s deadpan expression and stillness, the nervous pacing was even more pronounced and made Cameron look super uncomfortable.
The highlight of the awkwardness came when a heckler shouted a homophobic comment at the top of his lungs. No one knew how to react to the situation. Cameron tried to laugh it off, saying something along the lines of “If you see someone digging a hole near a water pipe, you should probably just take the shovel out of their hands.”
In a weird way, the heckler felt a bit fitting. As Cameron transitioned to his last song, ‘Marlon Brando’, he introduced it as an examination of the mind of a straight white male. The song is a satire about toxic masculinity written from the perspective of an overly confident asshole, much like Mr. Homophobic Heckler, and Cameron’s little speech seemed to directly call him out.
Even when certain crowd members weren’t being rude, the rest of the audience seemed a bit uncomfortable from the beginning. Some fans were excited, others seemed like they were just accompanying a friend and really didn’t want to be there. Thankfully Cameron & Co. won them over as the show progressed. The most satisfying part of the show was the last 15-20 minutes. People finally started dancing and more were actually singing along.
The awkwardness of the show wasn’t one party’s fault. It was a combination of bad luck and a group of artists having an off day. Hopefully their future performances are met with a warmer audience and feel more confident. Once again, the potential for a great show was there and it’ll just take a little more time to get there.
Jackie Cohen by Ingrid Angulo
Alex Cameron by Ingrid Angulo