Most of the large crowd at last Thursday night’s CCA concert at Simon Estes Auditorium had a ball in the house when the a Cappella group Ball in the House shred their soulful performance, Tight, and fun choreography.
To the amazement of the audience the only accompaniment was the percussion created by John Ryan Be Bopper and Tie Guy. So to make this clear beatboxing is the art of using one’s lips, tongue and throat to imitate the rhythms of sound of a drum kit including cymbals, bass, kick, and snare drums. A quick google search adds these terms to explain the art: vocal band, eeping, turtlullage, swingle and even scat. But if you haven’t heard, you wouldn’t believe it.
Ryan and Dave Guisti, tenor and Hat Guy met as kids when attending Boston Boy’s Choir School. For the past 18 years they have been joined by three other musicians, currently Wallace Thomas, high tenor and Bald Guy; Kevin Guest, bass and Belt Bucle Guy’ and Monty Hill, baritone, and Big Guy. Ball in the House’s accolades include performing as openers for the Beach Boys, the Temptations, Gladys Knight, Lionel Richie, the Jonas Brothers and others. Maybe your have heard their Cool Whip or Amazon Prime Day commercials. Or maybe you remember them from their appearance on America’s Got Talent.
As young men it was understandable to hear them lead off the concert with four contemporary songs” Taylor Swift’s “I’ll Leave You Breathless,” Luther Vandross’ “Never Too Much,” Justin Timberlake’s “Take Back the Night,” and Zedd’s “Meet Me in the Middle.” They established their style right away and we appreciated their rich sounds, their frequent temp shifts, and of course the easy hip action.
We would soon discover the eclectic qualities of the quartet as they would add original songs, R and B classics, gospel, and disco to their repertoire.
Throughout the evening the entertainers shared stories repeating the theme of brotherly love and admiration for one another. Hat Guy emphasized how great it was to “do things with people you love” and explained that Big Guy was performing again after a stroke that involved paralysis and vocal loss.
He explained the group’s name was lifted from a Brady Bunch episode “Don’t Play Ball in the House.”
Next they danced their way through Bill Wither’s 70’s classic “There Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone” with plenty of “I knows” repeated. Then came the Do Wops and Shoo Be Doos of “In the Still of the Night” along with snapping fingers, vibrant vibratos, and varied volumes bring much admiration for the responsive audience.
Tie Guy appreciated that the crowd had not departed. During one performance people stood to leave because they thought the Ballers were cheating by adding a soundtrack or using vodoo.
So Tie Guy whose job is not so much to sing but to create the percussive sound of a drum set showed just how he makes some of the drum bests, Before long he had the audience making the sound sans microphone. Ryan, Tie Guy, actually performed a lengthy solo to the delight of his audience but the chagrin of his bandmates who teased the solo gets longer with each performance, their twenty-sixth in the Midwest.
Later another band member took the crowd to the next level, introducing several hand gestures including spirit fingers and the lasso above the head motion. “Dancing In the Street” was the perfect song to demonstrate the sounds and motions we had been taught. “I’ve Got Sunshine” followed with still more dance moves. Breaking up the pace, Ball in the House sang Sam Cook’s “Cupid” harmonizing beautifully “the straight to my lover’s heart” lyrics.
Juxtaposed against Cook’s classic came John Legend’s “All of Me.” (No, not that one). The one with the lyrical paradoxes like “I am out of my mind ‘cause all of me loves all of you. . . Your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfect imperfections. . .you are my end and my beginning. Even wen I lose I’m winning.”
Then came Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody Love Me Better” with its highly percussive full sound puzzling us as to how all that sound could come from the lips, mouth, throat, and voice of five people. My husband with his dry humor remarked that most audiences look for 15 minutes to find the band. And he was right because Ball in the House sound like an entire house band without a single instrument on stage except for a pitch pipe used only occasionally.
Returning after intermission, the Ballers sang “Can’t Stop This Feeling” and “Sunny Days,” lesser-known songs. But the crowd began clapping before even hearing the words to “I Only Have Eyes For You” with it’s give-away “She bops and. . . made famous by the Flamingoes in 1954.
The gospel tunes “This Little Light of Mine” and “Swing Down Chariot” followed. Next came an original song by Thomas, Ball Guy. The sound created were so dynamic we didn’t know who to watch or where the sounds were coming from. “I’m Knocking at Your Door” was an account of Thomas’ college crush, his rejection, and ultimate conquest. After a lengthy pursuit and a best first date ever, Bald Guy explained they have been married now for seven years.
Disco fans were surely delighted with “Stayin’ Alive” with plenty of John Travolta’s “Saturday Night” dance moves. “That’s the Way I Like It” and “YMCA” rounded out the set.
Hat Guy also had an original song to share with”It Weighs Heavy on My Mind” with its back story about his well-loved grandfather’s death. The sudden conclusion of the song reinforced the difficulty of dealing with a sudden death. But it was Hat Guy’s mother’s words that will stay with us” Pthey are at peace and we are left to pick up the pieces.”
Nearly to the end of the program four of the Ballers minus Tie Guy, the beatboxer, sang a lullaby-like number without any microphones at all. More humor came when ie Guy returned with the accolade “Beautiful. But it would have been better with drums.”
With the final strains of “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” the crowd rose to its feet quickly. We knew Ball in the House had “delivered.”
After the concert, I greeted Ray Tresemer who I had caught clapping with great animation. “You had a good time tonight didn’t you?” Without skipping a beat Ray responded, “Sure did. I sat by the prettiest woman here,” and then he hugged Patty, his wife, next to him.
The next concert, The Sons of the Pioneers, will not be until March unless CCA ticker holders attend concerts at the other venues in southern Iowa.