Justin Lamb is not afraid to make a spectacle of himself. As he spits his more aggressive, confrontational rhymes, his face turns deep red, veins cord out along his neck and arms, his fists clench and unclench, and tears spring into his eyes. He looks like a man ready to explode, as if the poems themselves are bigger than he is. Both casual and dedicated fans of spoken word might wonder how a recording could capture the mad energy and biting humor of Justin’s work. However it Turns Out is Perfect, Lamb’s new live album, renders that question irrelevant.
Slam is less an artform than a framework through which spoken word poets can hone their skills. Audience members volunteer to judge, and poets battle head-to-head. Local slams determine the membership of Team Slam New Orleans (Team SNO), the city’s representatives at regional slams and the National Poetry Slam. Slams are not just democratic, they are inherently interactive. The crowd is invited to cheer, to hoot, to stomp, to applaud, even to dispute the judges’ scores. The audience’s energy is dependent on the poets’. Justin Lamb’s frenetic wordplay and rapid hand movements are not out of place in a typical slam; what sets Lamb apart is how he marshals that energy to create something new.
The ten poems included on Lamb’s However it Turns Out Is Perfect incorporate music, comedy, and a heartfelt affection for listeners and for life. Subjects include Somali Pirates, the mean streets of Connecticut, and internet slang. He uses humor and comedic timing to make his way past a listener’s defenses, and most every poem has a turning point when Justin’s humor recedes and the listener realizes that the point he is striving to make is deadly serious. On track 12, “FML” the poet begins by musing on an acronym he has encountered again and again while browsing popular website where users make complaints like: I cracked my phone last night, FML. My roommates ate all the muffins, FML. Lamb then asks “But what if we don’t want to? I would rather make love to your life!” He exhorts his audience to awaken to miracle of physical existence. Anyone who has seen Justin perform live knows that as he spits the piece, he reaches out to pull at the air around him, as if embracing not just the listening crowd, but the entire world. The CD is by turns joyful, hilarious, heartbreaking, and exhausting.
Justin and Team SNO run a slam and open mic at the Shadowbox Theatre (2400 Saint Claude Avenue) on the first Sunday of every month. Anyone can step to the mic and perform. He is also the co-organizer of this year’s Southern Fried Poetry Slam, a regional poetry festival and competition , which returns to New Orleans for the first time since Hurricane Katrina, June 5-8 [CK dates] . In August, Justin will accompany Team SNO to the National Poetry Slam in Boston.
Last Friday, April 26, Lamb celebrated the release of However It Turns Out Is Perfect with a party and performance at the Red Star Gallery on Bayou Road. He was joined by musician David “Profess” Burl, who also appears on the CD and by the rest of Team SNO for celebratory performances.
To purchase the CD or for More Info: www.justinpoet.com