Kathy reviews 'Bushwhacked Backyard BBQ' and 'Massaoke' 

Each year, the Fringe Festival gets bigger. And so have the ladies of the “Bushwhacked” series. First it was a tiny, cramped tent. Then a larger pop-up tent. Now they’ve graduated to a full-on backyard. And still, the show feels intimate. With only 10 tickets per performance, there’s no room to be shy at this party.

Abby DeVuyst and Kerry Young are on from the moment they step out of their tent in their dresses, aprons and ridiculous wigs, welcoming guests to their “Bushwhacked Backyard BBQ” in measured, Southern drawls that are sweeter than sweet tea. The invitation to their cooking show (being filmed with “hidden cameras,” of course) is the pretense for their outlandish demos, which involve wieners, knitting needles, and Cheez Wow. For the first demo, their Japanese “Iron Chef” attempts to make sushi out of hot dogs, American cheese and a bun (flattened with a rolling pin), before he retires to the grill to cook up the audiences’ dinner,  delicately moving each hot dog around with giant chop sticks. “BEEF WIENERS!” we all squeal in unison before erupting into giggles.

DeVuyst and Young showed off their improv chops (both are also members of Unleashed! Improv), rolling with the punches as two audience members showed up late. They bounce jokes off one another that mostly landed; when it’s a dud, they moved on quickly. Occasionally the background noise of the Spiegelgarden overwhelmed the performers, but for the most part, they play along. In their words, they “Tim Gun the shit out of this,” by making it work — and it does. I can’t say the meal was gourmet — we washed down our wieners with a frozen corn spritzer, beans decorated with cookie-cutter shaped American cheese slices and hollowed-out bananas with whipped cream — but it was entertaining to watch them guide us through dinner and a show.

Bushwhacked Backyard BBQ is sold out for the remainder of the Fringe Festival.

click to enlarge Massaoke at Parcel 5 on Friday, September 14. - PHOTO BY JOSH SAUNDERS
  • Massaoke at Parcel 5 on Friday, September 14.
I can’t say I’m a fan of karaoke — not being able to sing and horrific stage fright are a big part of that. But when you crowd hundreds of strangers together, mix in a little alcohol and add a live band, it’s not so bad. Massaoke took over Parcel 5 Friday night at the Fringe Fest. Direct from London (despite a hiccup with US Customs and Border protection earlier in the week) for their North American debut, the band led the crowd through a wide array of songs, with lyrics appearing on giant screens on either side of the stage.

After a bit of an uneven start, the band started picking up on the types of songs the crowd liked (or was at least willing to sing). Classic “anthems” — Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “Take On Me” by Aha! — revved up the crowd, while others like “Teenage Dirtbag” and “Iris” didn’t quite do it. At times, the band let the crowd pick between a few songs (including a vote on the last song of the night – “Bohemian Rhapsody”), which is when things really got cookin’.

click to enlarge Massaoke at Parcel 5 on Friday, September 14. - PHOTO BY JOSH SAUNDERS
  • Massaoke at Parcel 5 on Friday, September 14.
I started off toward the back of the crowd, concerned about the sound level (yes, I’m officially an old fart), but after the first few songs, decided to venture more closely toward the stage — and it got better and worse at the same time. The more people I surrounded myself with, the less I could hear how terribly I’m sure I was singing. But it didn’t matter how bad anyone was — we all crooned and unapologetically danced along. It felt a bit like Silent Disco if you removed your headphones and added a live band. Leave your hairbrush microphones at home, bring some friends (ideally ones who don’t sing as well as you) and belt your little heart out.

Massaoke will take place again on Saturday, September 15, at 8:30 p.m. at Parcel 5. Free and appropriate for all ages.

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