Shlomo, self-described beatbox Jedi and actual loopstation champion, performs live at the London Wonderground.
Shlomo, the motor-mouthed World Loopstation Champion, holds a special place in my heart, having been involved with the young people of the Southbank centre for a number of years as artist-in-residence. From beatboxing classes to generally being a lovely guy, he puts time and effort into bringing a fresh, exciting art form into the Royal Festival Hall, inspiring countless young people to push the boundaries of music. He’s also a firm favourite at the Udderbelly and Wonderground festivals, back again this time performing both his kids’ and live show in the spiegeltent and up again in Edinburgh this year.
When I spoke to him briefly before the show, Shlomo said that he’d like his career to progress to focussing on directing rather than performance. Those of you who visited the Udderbelly festival on the Southbank last year might remember a certain headlining show called ‘The Vocal Orchestra’, which was a beatboxing choir directed by Shlomo himself. Now, he’s also working with project ‘The Lip Factory’ under the same premise.
The show this year is a new creation: Human Geekbox, a wonderful narrative of a childhood ensnared by imagination, where old-Shlo presents to us a young-Shlo’s world of dreams and adult lies- an autobiography formed by music. We travel from his days at school where he yearned to be an astronomer to his days as an astrophysicist at university (he dropped out after getting scouted by supergroup Foreign Beggars at 18). Shlomo is a confident and natural performer, and his winning smile, comedy, and openness about his life work their way into his routine effortlessly. Though some people have complained about the unclear choreography of other Wonderground headliner LIMBO, Shlomo’s story is easy to follow- all the better to enjoy the music!
The highlight of the show is undoubtedly Shlomo’s dubstep/rave/house mix; the crowd is on their feet and jumping as Shlo uses his loopstation to such heights that the technology dies on him (but thankfully not until we’ve had a party in our cramped seats).
It’s difficult to describe Shlomo’s mix of vocal acrobatics: accomplished, he’s mastered the loopstation to become world champion, which samples elements of his own voice to create songs right in front of your eyes; energetic, he bounces around the stage like any seasoned MC. Though focussed on experimental, electronic, and hip-hop, any person could appreciate these weird and wonderful sounds.
The downside of the performance (aside from disrespectful British drinking culture seeping into the tent) was that Shlomo is a standalone act, needing no other artist to perform with him to make the night a little bit more special; he could miss out the ‘guest’ part of his show entirely, which came towards the middle-end of the gig. Sometimes, granted, the mashups are incredible: this time round, Wonderground has been treated to a Sxip Shirey and Reeps One collaboration, but the finale tonight is a letdown when avant-garde is let loose in the form of Leafcutter John, an electronic artist purporting to make music through audience members’ watches. This unfortunately doesn’t work: the sounds are earsplitting or non-existent in rhythm, and while it could be seen for something experimental, it really doesn’t cut it next to Shlomo tonight. However, these collaborations do actually add something of value: they are available to buy as charity downloads from the website here.
A polite round of applause, and we’re left yearning for more music to dance to again- which Shlo gives us heartily- and at the end of the night, we’re still on our feet.
You can name your own price for his latest EP, ‘Hands Up’, be it £100 or 1p.
Catch him at Shlo.co.uk or on Twitter at @Shlomo