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Keep Chico Weird talent show lives up to its name

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There’s only one place where you’ll find a freak-folk artist, female illusionist and hula-hoop dancer on the same stage in one night: The Keep Chico Weird Talent Show, held Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the El Rey Theatre in Chico.

Though the show ran for about three hours and had technical issues and delays, the host, contestants and judges remained engaging and entertaining.

The show, presented by Chico News & Review and Feather Falls Casino & Lodge, started 20 minutes late to allow as many audience members as possible into the venue. It began with an introduction by featured fashion/art collective Chikoko, a pantomimed skit involving a mime, human puppet and woman on stilts.

After the introduction, host Arts DEVO, sporting a red Devo hat and grey suit, took to the stage.

He strummed a ukelele while a man with long hair obscuring his face let out deep, sporadic guttural noises. An energetic audience cheered and whooped in response.

“People of Chico, oh my god. You love your freaks,” DEVO said.

Keep Chico Weird was already living up to its name and the contest hadn’t even started.

There were 21 acts total including a spoken-word piece with video by Mr. Givens, a glowing light show by the Lumininjas, a comedy sketch called “Late Night Stripper Swiffer”, freak-folk artist Bran Crown and mouth instrumentalist Whipple.

The show’s celebrity judges were “The Beards”, Brandon Squyres
and Adam Switzer from “The Amazing Race”; Megan McMann, host of Wake Up!
Action News Now; and Dragonboy, artist and director of Manas Artspace.

The judges had three criteria to focus on: creativity and originality, performance quality and audience reaction.

The winners received “pegacorn”, a pegasus/unicorn creature, trophies designed by local artist Sea Monster. It was not mentioned during the show that the winners would also be invited to perform at Feather Falls Casino or the CAMMIES Awards Show.

Hula-hoop dancer Meg Amor took first place in the competition. She performed on a dark stage to an upbeat dance track with two neon orange hula-hoops, spinning them around and above her hips, arms, legs and stomach without making a single mistake.

There was also a “Best of Show” awarded to the artist of the audience’s favorite piece from the Keep Chico Weird Art Gallery located in the lobby.

The talent show included so many talented contestants that there was a tie for second place, which went to Chico Dance Hams and Full Force Dance Co.

The dancers of Chico Dance Hams wore outfits of black and bright
pink spandex and danced to a track that sounded like it came straight out of an
’80s exercise video. They made audience members laugh by playing up the exercise theme, bringing in dumbbells and doing sit-ups while dancing.

Full Force Dance Co.’s Elite squad hit the stage with a fierce hip-hop routine that included popping, locking and booty shaking.

Other contestants included comedians DNA, Mark Joseph Leathers and Kyle Bowen, all of whom made the audience laugh and didn’t have any jokes that fell flat. Bowen, sticking to the night’s theme, delivered a poem he wrote about a cat attacking his toes during sex.

“One pussy held my foot, the other my manhood,” Bowen said. “This was not what I had in mind when I pictured a ménage à trois.”

Ben Sallman, who played the ukelele and a hands-free didgeridoo that he designed, experienced some technical difficulties but was brought back during the second act to finish his set.

Millian, a female illusionist, danced and mouthed along to Ciara’s “Get Up” and jumped off the front of the stage at the performance’s end, causing audience members to scream and some to give a standing ovation.

Mint Shekels and the Treif-Stars performed a “harmonic ritual,” taking a woman who was planted in the audience and curing her from “blood in her piss” and “piss in her blood” by having her drink mead. When she couldn’t pay for the mead, they removed her blessing and then bestowed it upon the audience. The performance, which Mint Shekels insisted was not music, included chanting, the singing saw, guitar and percussion.

Chico State junior Tara Turpin, an exercise phyisiology major, said the show made her laugh a lot and that it definitely kept Chico weird.

“It is definitely one of a kind,” Turpin said. “I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

Ashiah Scharaga can be reached at [email protected] or @AshiahD on Twitter.

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Keep Chico Weird talent show lives up to its name