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And the Beat Goes On: Tom Tom Crew

Sure, the beat lives in us all, but when you go and see the Tom Tom Crew, it becomes clear that it lives in some a little more than in others. In their case, it seems to bounce upon their very existence, infiltrating into their performance in a way that infects everyone who’s watching with the exact same rhythm – well, until the show is over, anyway. They have been lauded as a “hip-hop circus,” but in reality it’s too difficult to classify their acrobatic-sound-dance spectacular. It’s a nightclub, a Cirque du Soleil and a street breakdance all in one, combining the three separate energies into one profoundly high-octane performance, waking you up and inevitably leaving you wanting more… or, at very least, a beer. Preferably with the crew.

Comprising of musical genius Tom Thum (his parents actually named him Tom Horn), DJ Sampology, drummer Bel Walsh and acrobats Ben Lewis, Daniel Catlow, Shane Witt and Karl Stock, these guys define cool, not to mention endearing. Their show is entertainment-innovation at its finest, joining body stunts with sound tricks in a way that is all together unexpected and ultimately fitting and hypnotic. Perhaps one of the most intense “wow-factors” within the show is the journey through sound Tom takes the audience upon. Presumably born with built-in decks, he creates sounds that range everywhere from drum and bass beats to jazz club melodies to a rapper’s symphony to a musical memorial for the King of Pop himself. He is the vocalist, the drummer and the DJ, and the only instrument he uses is a mic – no tricks, no background and definitely no backup. I promise you, this will become hard to believe when you’re sitting in the audience and constantly asking yourself, “WHAT THE HELL IS HE DOING?”

So, I had to ask him: what the hell are you doing?

“I’m really just manipulating my mouth to create different sounds, and pushing the boundaries of sonic waves,” he insists.

Tom says it all started as a hyperactive little kid, when he ended up channeling his energy into music. Although he describes his family as fairly musical, he claims they didn’t pass on their skills to him. I beg to differ.
“I played a few instruments, but none of them particularly well. I was surrounded by hip-hop, so this kind of culture became ingrained in me. I started as a graffiti writer 10 years ago, then I got into break dancing, then beat boxing… it was a natural progression.”

Meeting on stage at Brisbane’s Woodford Folk Festival on New Years Eve 2007, what started as a freestyle became a whole show. The chemistry between the guys was unshakeable, so they continued to jam with the same kind of formula and eventually created the show as it stands today – not that there’s a set blueprint. As Tom puts it, they continue to freestyle all the time. It keeps them from getting bored.

“Well, we often play jokes on each other that we don’t know about until they’re happening. When I say we play jokes on each other, I mean I play jokes on them.”

“The lighthearted nature keeps us on our toes and keeps us not sick of the show – there are no scripted lines, so we’re not in trouble when we change things around a bit. We’ve had a bit of experience in dealing with things when they don’t go right.”

He isn’t leaving out injury as a reason for one of the major altering factors within the shows, either. Performing stunts that make cheerleading squads look like juvenile jamborees, the guys have had their fair share of bodily damage throughout their 300-shows-and-up resume – not that it stops them from doing what they do.

“We have had few unfortunate instances with injuries which we have had to assess immediately after they happened. They've usually been during shows, so we end up basing the rest on what we can and cannot do,” he says.
“For example, Ben [Lewis] snapped a ligament in London, and I’ve sprained my neck a few times.
“We’re about to embark on a 48 show tour in Holland. I just hope I don’t lose my voice. That could play a major part.

Describing his relationship with sound as “definitely not a one-night-stand,” Tom’s side projects include making albums and expanding and developing new shows with the Tom Tom crew. Whatever success it's bringing him, he stays in it all for the love: “I never thought I would make money out of this – anybody who gets into Aussie hip hop for money just doesn’t make sense.
“I love it. My mom keeps hassling me to get a legitimate job, but then I remind her – we just performed on Broadway…
“I just want to keep getting out there and making music with the crew, and take whatever comes my way.
“It would be cool to be a park ranger, though. I have this sort of obsession with deadly animals.”

Tom Thum (nee Horn)

The boys will be breaking beats all day tomorrow (January 15) at Westsyde Connection alongside Sydney’s finest graffiti artists who will be collaborating on a wallspace (including two of our favourites, Beastman and Numskull), skateboarders and hip hop artists. Talk about a cocktail of awesomeoness. It’s on from 1.30pm at the 441 New Canterbury Road, Dulwich Hill.

Oh, and Tom Tom are currently playing at the Opera House, which is one of those events which is SERIOUSLY not to be missed. They’re only on until the 24th though, so book your tickets now, people.

Because we’re nice, we have a double-pass to giveaway for this coming Sunday (January 17) at 2pm. To win, simply tell us why you deserve the tickets in 100 words or less at by 10pm tonight.

words: Seema Duggal


January 14, 2010 at 3:42 PM dana {yellowtrace blog} said...

Thanks for the tip- sounds brilliant!


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