“Shake your ass for compassion and justice!”
Last Saturday night, lyrics like this bounced around the Parker Commons as the one-man-band Kid Beyond played a SCOPE-sponsored concert that also featured Colgate’s own student band Sonic Symposium.
Taking the stage at 8:30 p.m., a diminished Sonic Symposium – down from nine members to six for the show – played a hip-hop heavy set, primarily featuring senior vocalist Adam Coccari, sophomore Eli Raffeld on drums, junior saxophonist Alex Ogunji, junior bassist Brendan Young, senior Chris Jospe on percussion and senior Ben Sanofsky on keyboards provided a great introduction to Kid Beyond’s set, taking a similar vocal style and adding a variety of backing instruments.
Billed on his website as a combination singer-beatboxer-live looper-songwriter-one man vocal band, Kid Beyond (a.k.a. Andrew Chaikin) classifies his unique style as electronic pop music.
“It’s like Bono meets beatboxing meets Buddha,” San Franciscan Chaikin said as he described the process he uses to loop his music.
By using machinery, he is able to multiply his voice over and over in order to lay down tracks of many different instruments. But here’s the catch: he does it all right onstage – and using only his mouth. Having beatboxed for 20 years now, Kid Beyond can vocally imitate drum kits, hip-hop and techno beats, turntable scratches, string instruments and synthesizers. Using a board of foot pedals, he ensures that he never has to touch a computer while manipulating the tracks and building a song right in front of the crowd.
As he began the show by asking for some audience participation, his beatboxing created a hurricane of drumbeats, instantly transforming the chilly Commons into a techno club. The songs as a whole sounded larger than life, bigger than what one would expect to come from one man, and certainly from one thin laptop.
Halfway into his set, Kid Beyond invited Coccari, a beatboxer himself, onstage to showcase his vocal talents alongside him.
“SCOPE chose a really great artist to put on a show. Adam Coccari and Kid Beyond showed me one of the best beatbox battles I’ve ever seen,” sophomore Kathleen Shaughnessy said.
Kid Beyond continued to astound the audience with his use of technology. By wearing a ring known as the “Hot Hand,” he was able to control his machinery by waving his finger, slowing down or speeding up his backing tracks according to how he moved his hands.
While the songs alternated between hip-hop, techno and more soulful styles, it is clear that much of Kid Beyond’s inspiration is spiritual. As a Buddhist, Kid Beyond said he looks to meditation to think about his connection with the world and with other people, and always asks himself, “Would that be good energy to put out into the world?” as he writes his lyrics. On stage, he often sang about God, and his show took a political turn as he discussed the background to a song about a humanitarian named Marla who was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq.
Sophomore Jake Epstein, the member of SCOPE responsible for organizing the show, expressed his excitement about the Kid Beyond performance.
“Music brought to Colgate isn’t always directed at a large part of the student body, but everyone can dance to this guy’s beats,” Epstein said.
Epstein was proven right; the song about Marla may have been the heaviest one of the set, but the audience jumped up and down to the rhythm and yelled along, having a great time.
Having fun with music is important to Kid Beyond. As he searched for a name for his act, a “superhero identity,” as he called it, he kept hearing fans tell him that his type of music was a step beyond normal beatboxing.
“It was like the universe was trying to tell me something about the word ‘beyond,'” Chaikin said. “As for the ‘kid’ part, it allows me to be both childlike and transcendent at the same time, both a monk and a monkey.”
It must have been the monkey in Kid Beyond that compelled him to bring a cheesecake from Brooklyn to share with his Colgate audience after the show. With no silverware, everyone had to serve themselves with their hands. Kid Beyond is full of surprises like this. Not only is he working on a conventional full length CD now, but he has also performed a handful of songs on Guitar Hero and is interested in inventing board games (in fact, he will soon be presenting one to Mattel).
“I’m just trying to cultivate more love in the world,” Chaikin said. “Ideally, you can still do that while kicking some ass.”
Next up for Kid Beyond: finishing his album and playing upcoming shows with guitarist and former member of Guns N’ Roses Buckethead. To read more about Kid Beyond, check out his website at kidbeyond.com; to get a better idea of how he makes his music, try searching for him on YouTube. You have to see it to believe it.