Disorienting, unpredictable and extremely versatile, Reggie Watts invaded the sold-out Kay Theatre at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center for the 2nd annual NextNOWFest, bringing a whole new vibe to the already milestone festival.
Before Reggie took to the stage, a sophomore biology student named Elie Rizk, prepared the audience with an acoustic set filled with original song.
Wearing his mother’s wool sweaters (that he had everyone begging to buy), he launched into two original stomping acoustic songs, completely at ease in front of the roughly 626 attendees.
Rizk’s voice rang from the indie-alternative heavens, a slightly raspy croon that could accompany a cross-country road-trip or a late-night drive with the top down, with wind rushing through the soul or even a pair of lovers caressing each other’s faces in a fit of affectionate expression.
Accompanied later by his two friends, sophomore communications major Sarah Lee on vocals and Phil Peker, a finance and marketing major, on electric guitar, the trio wove in their soft and sensual voices to covers of songs such as “Summertime,” “American Boy” and “No Diggity” among other tracks.
They concluded with “Crazy in Love” and a lovely remix of the “Candy Shop.”
The smoky veil Rizk wove in his performance was hastily altered as Watts pranced on the stage, wearing an all-black outfit that featured a shirt with the silhouette of a penny and suspenders.
It was quickly established that Watts’ mind and talent have no limits whatsoever. He performed Gregorian chants and launched into a Fear The Walking Dead rant and moonwalked across the stage; his priceless facial expressions caused some of the audience members to cackle in response.
I’ve never seen anyone perform the way he does—completely unchained and willing to let his mind take control over his body, a one-man band, a mad-genius who requires only a few tools and is then ready to conquer the world.
Watts is like the crazy cool uncle who you only see occasionally but experience an explosion of greatness and are left bewildered whenever you do, wondering what the hell happened but knowing it was a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.
The comedian and musician uses his performances as a way to stay abreast of the world’s happenings He asks questions that have been haunting him like, “What is a bae? What’s selflies?” Some in the crowd explained “bae means before anyone else.”
Watts couldn’t help but smile and shake his head at this acronym.
Watts is refreshing in that he has no plan and no constraints, allowing whatever beats or lyrics swirling and stomping in his head to take over and allow himself to become a grand presence, freeing the Pandora’s box of a thousand different personalities onto the crowd and letting them try to make sense of it all, if they can.
“Feel the Fuck!” the audience yelled as Watts grinned and motioned for them to repeat the chant, which he made up for an imaginary radio station. “I hope that becomes a real thing,” he said laughing, before performing another song with his loop-machine.
There were school-related jokes scattered here and there, my favorite one on how people look at their phones and pretend to be engaged in the conversations around them, faking laughter and comprehension.
Watts discussed how “back in the day” there were carrier pigeons and that “faking it” was harder than it is today. He had the crowd roaring with his spot-on sound effects, a carrier pigeon incarnate.
Keeping everyone on their toes, the Comedy Bang! Bang! star would do extended introductions before his songs, such as erupting into an eerie chant that would fit perfectly in the History Channel’s Vikings or acting like a woman who didn’t feel like hooking up with a guy.
Sweeping his mane back, he descended into the audience, stroking the back of people’s hair and singing to them, moving through the rows and customizing his movements according to their reactions.
Watts highlighted the upcoming iOS iPhone update, the anticipation of the new Star Wars remakes and the fact that white actors voice ethnic characters in cartoons.
He also addressed Donald Trump and how he viewed women as a 4 or 5 year old would.
The only mention of the 14th anniversary of 9/11 was when Reggie told the story of when he walked through Williamsburg, Brooklyn and saw a fire truck that had the words “Never Forget” painted on it.
“I was like fuck,” Watts paused, biting his lip. “I forgot my wallet.”
The night ended with a “Thank you, I’m Missy Elliott,” bowing and taking a moment to grin at the standing ovation.
The accurate way to describe last night’s show is stated perfectly by Watt’s Twitter bio:
“In the absence of truth there is confusion; the essence of truth.”
There was a lot of confusion, rants, songs that looped and took a life of their own, morphing into another piece and illuminating the labyrinth that’s tattooed in Watt’s mind.
Karla Casique is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.