This is my friend Brandon Schaaf from Indianapolis.
If you couldn’t tell, he’s “singing” along with Bohemian Rhapsody in American Sign Language. This was one of many stellar acts for Know No Stranger’s “Optical Popsicle II,” a visual variety show that was made by anyone who wanted to get involved and cost relatively nothing. I was in town for the week leading up to the show and got to help out a lot both before and during the performances, which meant a lot of hanging out with awesome people.
I remember talking to Brandon about this particular piece, which got a standing ovation both nights, and how he felt about it.
“People are really into it, which seems weird. It doesn’t really feel like I’m doing anything special. I’m not actually singing or playing, I’m just lip syncing and air guitaring.”
He had an interesting point. I mean, I remember watching from the crowd and getting goosebumps during the performance, but I couldn’t find an answer as to why it was so moving. At least, not then.
Even if someone is performing an original song with beautiful composition and moving lyrics, the performance still feels dry if they aren’t really feeling the song, allowing the listener to really experience it. That’s what was special about Brandon’s performance. He was able to take a song that everyone knew and infuse it with his own energy and emotion so that everyone was experiencing it in a way they never had before.
This is the most important aspect of live performing for me. If the performer isn’t really amplifying the tone and emotion of the work, it’s hard to feel affected by it.