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Karmin

Saint Augustine Amphitheater in Saint Augustine, FL
8
We are living in a new era, where musicians no longer need to climb the ladder to fame through backroom deals and poorly paying gig after poorly paying gig in hopes that someone will notice their talent. All you need is some God-given talent, a webcam or cellphone, and an internet connection. No one knows this better than musical-duo Karmin. Real-life couple, Nick Noonan and Amy Heidemann, shot to stardom practically overnight nearly three years ago when they uploaded their fun cover of Chris Brown's, "Look at Me Now." Now they have a performance on Saturday Night Live, a cover of Rolling Stone magazine, a chart topping original hit?"Brokenhearted"?and a fresh-off-the-presses album "Pulses" under their stylish belts.

In all honesty, I hadn't heard of Karmin until my girlfriend giddily told me that one of her favorite bands was going to perform at her new school during the first week of her PhD program and that I absolutely had to go with her. Being the supportive boyfriend and musically inclined fellow that I am, I looked up the band she was raving about and realized that she had gotten us tickets to see the group behind that catchy hit that I couldn't get out of my head a couple summers ago. The more I looked into Karmin, the more excited I got to see them. Their Vevo channel on YouTube features stunning music videos from "Pulses" that totally hooked me. In fact, I think I played "Acapella" roughly 30 times in the two days prior to the concert in preparation for the epicness that I was about to witness.

The concert was held in the arena of the University of Central Florida in Orlando and featured another real-life musical couple that I hadn't heard of as an opening act. Alex and Sierra, former UCF students themselves, are the only people ever to win the American X-factor. This concert at their Alma Mater was their second big-venue performance ever, and it showed. The novice performers have yet to develop a stage presence. In fact, Sierra told a story of one of their previous gigs during which fireworks happened to be going off in the background and all of the audience members turned their lawn chairs around to watch the fireworks instead of the band. That said, they are phenomenal musicians. I'm not sure that I've ever heard harmonies as tight as theirs. Despite the fact that they accurately described most of their songs as "sad and depressing," Alex and Sierra were a delight to listen to. Their jazzy cover/mashup of "Toxic" and "Thrift Shop" was unique and definitely enjoyable. Alex's broey vibe was balanced by Sierra's innocent flower-child air, allowing them to seamlessly transition from indie-pop, to country-esque, to jazzy rap without jarring the audience. Their song, "Cheating" was so much fun that I actually looked up from my game of Flappy Bird to watch the couple bounce along to their own lyrics. Their final song, "Scarecrow" was definitely the major hit from their set, but unfortunately the duo continued to just stand in place despite the audience's enthusiasm. Overall, Alex and Sierra seem like performers who, at least at this point, would be much better served by small, intimate venues.

Karmin, on the other hand, seemed as if the stage wasn't big enough for them. The amount of energy just bursting out of Amy and Nick is something that all live performers should strive to achieve. They commanded attention from the audience and owned the stage as they played through their most recent album. They have everything, talent, looks, and the confidence to show them off. Amy is very clearly a natural performer and her fiancé Nick is born to be on stage. Sure, when they started off their set with the title track, "Pulses," Nick was a little pitchy, but he rapidly acclimated. Meanwhile, Amy just came out swinging, giving 100%, nailing every high-speed rap, hitting every sung note perfectly, and strutting across the stage with a power that should worry Beyoncé. Actually, after the concert, my girlfriend and I had a serious conversation about which couple (Jay-Z and Beyoncé or Karmin) would win in a fight, we both agreed it would be close but favor of Karmin.
The live versions of "I Told You So," "Pulses," and "I Want it All" were thoroughly enjoyable, despite some technical problems that involved the entire left set of speakers cutting out for almost an entire song, something that didn't even phase the duo. I was surprised and pleased when "Acapella" briefly and smoothly transitioned into a quick mashup with "Umbrella." One of the only qualms I had with the concert are that Nick kept running to a completely unlit corner of the stage to fist pump in his tank-top instead of using the other 75% of the stage to awesomely rock out. I had also hoped that they would play "Crash Your Party" but I suppose we can't always get what we want.

A surprising number of people left the concert prior to the encore, even despite the fact that Amy had started the last song with "Technically, this is our last song..." making it very clear that there was more to the show. The encore happily consisted of "Brokenhearted" a song that apparently Steven Spielberg complemented the duo on after their performance on SNL (though he said he would prefer more of Amy's rapping). But, hands down, the highlight of the entire show was when Amy picked a kid out of the crowd to join them on stage to rap "Look at Me Now" with them. This kid, Jordan or Josh or whatever, practically bounced onto the stage and managed to A) not make a fool of himself (something I would definitely have done), B) Freeze up (how I would have made a fool of myself) and C) perfectly rap every line with Amy, to a point that she kept switching off lines with him. He was so good that I was convinced he was a plant in the crowd until they finished the song and he hugged Amy, while Nick, surprised, exclaimed "He knew EVERY word!" I guess we can all hope to one day be as cool as that kid, or Nick and Amy or, heck, even Alex and Sierra. Main takeaways from this concert: 1) Don't play a set entirely consisting of slow songs in an arena, 2) YouTube is a legitimate and viable way to start a music career, 3) Couples make great performers, 4) Avoid unlit parts of the stage, and 5)If you're called up on stage as an audience member, you had best be prepared to perform on a professional level.

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