For a crowded evening at the Middle East Nightclub in Cambridge, the Upstairs lounge was converted into a jostling, whooping and jovial dance floor.
That1Guy took the stage to an audience of receptive concertgoers who, for roughly 90 minutes, engaged in what could be considered a musical conversation. As the artist – also known as Mike Silverman – spent the entirety of the set performing solo on a seemingly endless array of D.I.Y. instruments, the call and response with the audience was a welcome (and unique) manner of musicianship.
Throughout the set, Silverman almost seamlessly interwove a variety of musical tapestries into his set. The centerpiece instrument in his arsenal consists of what he calls “The Magic Pipe,” a homemade contraption that fittingly reflected the various styles and genres tackled over the evening. With the deft touch of a button, a bass-heavy, percussive beat pummeled in low frequencies through the audience as That1Guy sparred with his own homemade rhythm by counter-balancing it against a hand-beaten snare. Finally, the beat broke down to a steady that sent the audience gyrating to the snaking, electronic undercurrent.
The performance continued to glide smoothly into crowd-satisfying area of musical experimentation. Permeating the set was the sense that the musical performance shared the stage with that of a magic act, and this idea was presented at the fore in a tongue in cheek manner when the performer made a reverse “disappearing act” of his beard during the song “Mustaches” – and made a faux-moustache appear on a sign behind the nightclub bar.
Certainly the most interesting aspect of the show was That1Guy’s ability to coax mesmerizing, ambient-style melodies from The Magic Pipe while augmenting the sound with such strange “instruments” as hand puppets, a “quacking” stuffed duck, or even a mic’d cowboy boot with which he made the beat seemingly disappear. At one point, the relaxed melody of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was pulled from the bow of a singing saw while a minimalist beat grooved in the background.
Instrumental experimentation aside, the highlight of the concert – and the focus of the performance – was the construction of infectious, danceable rhythms which kept the audience moving throughout the evening. The variety of sounds left listeners fascinated and sometimes mesmerized as these otherwise inanimate objects were seemingly brought to life, all the while orchestrated with ease and amiability from the stage. At the heart of the show as a performance that very successfully and consistently engaged the audience in bass-heavy, funk-drenched songs which segued smoothly into one another.
The work of a traveling performer can be focused, intensive and intimidating, but as was on display at The Middle East, That1Guy has the deft ability to convert that focused performance into a relaxed atmosphere and a pleased crowed — and even, at times, magic.