Arts & Culture Reviews

The first Ben Caplan article that does not mention his facial hair

Ben Caplan performs at TEDx Nova Scotia at Dalhousie University. (Photo: Mackenzie Scrimshaw)

I believe, on some level, every King’s student wants to be Ben Caplan. His music, presentation and performance embodies so many things this school celebrates: philosophy-laden lyrics, Eastern European scales, suit blazers, overalls and a voice that beckons your ear’s attention.
Despite him being an alumnus of this school, I became acquainted with Caplan through concert posters and CBC Radio. After reading week, I saw show-bills around the city for a performance at the Pavilion.
I bought a ticket online, and on a Saturday, I got off work at five and made my way to the venue for six.
I had never been to the Pavilion before. It’s an all-ages venue and one of the few places where young’uns can check out shows regularly. It vaguely reminded me of a portable classroom, except there were ads for metal shows. The age range at the show was diverse—there were elementary school kids, their parents, teenagers and even a few seniors.
It was a lot different than a bar show—the majority of the attendees paid attention to the performers. It actually felt like a concert; people were there to hear the musicians instead of to drink and look cool.
As the first opener did his set, an elementary school aged kid darted between people, holding her father’s point-and-shoot camera. She explored the room with a sense of adventure, and blasted flash into the face of  performer Keith Mullins.
As the room filled up, Gabrielle Papillon began her set with two other female vocalists. They set a solemn mood by singing a French song, Coccinelle, acapella. The second song in her set was Little Bug, which reminded me that I had heard her sing before. She ran a workshop at King’s last year, hosted by the Wordsmiths Society. Her voice had a sweetness to it, which was only made more effective by her confessions of being a “big nerd” because she wrote a song about Greek tragedies.
Papillon finished her set with a cover of the American folk song, In The Pines.
Ben Caplan was up next. I was surprised that people were sitting down in the front. Who goes to a standing room show to sit down?
Kids, I guess.
I expected him to show up with his band, but he performed solo. It was his first show at the Pavilion, and his first show with a bunch of schoolchildren sitting down in front of him—a strange audience for a performer who honed his skills performing in the Wardroom for free liquor.
As a showman, he encouraged audience participation. He wanted to do a routine where he asked the room to yell in joy as though they’re having an orgasm. Recognizing the children before him, he asked us to imagine we had just won a game of checkers simultaneously with our best friends. The comedy went over the kids’ heads, the adults laughed, and the teens OMG’d.
His performance was dynamic, as he jumped between guitar and piano. His deep voice moved between sombre and excited, from a bassy whisper to an angry roar. As a one man show, he even sung the melodies that other instruments carried on his recordings. Caplan showed the audience how creative a person can be using just their voice and an instrument.
Seeing Ben Caplan perform solo was well worth the $12 cover. I might go to shows at The Pavilion more often—no bar service means my wallet doesn’t lose weight.
Date submitted: Mar. 14, 2013

By David J. Shuman

David is the current editor-in-chief of The Watch and writes on student issues and events. Find him on Twitter: @DavidJShuman

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