T.O.F.U. trio treats UA

About 30 people sat scattered throughout the Alltel ballroom Wednesday to watch Tons of Fun University and Jori Costello help raise money for the Peace at Home Family Shelter. The event was organized to bring awareness and raise donations to help battered women and children in the area.
Cody Ford of the shelter said the shelter has been around since 1977 helping families with support groups and supplies. Ford said that 1 in 3 women will be battered in her life.

“That’s a big percentage,” Ford said. “We’re working to stop the victimizing and there are a lot of ways a lot of you people can help.”

Ford spoke to the audience following a performance by local singer-songwriter Jori Costello. Costello’s performance included a Haiku and renditions of spirituals and “My Favorite Things.”

Tons of Fun University then took the stage and asked the scattered audience to come front and center. The audience quickly obeyed and the two large members of T.O.F.U. dressed in dark suits and newsboy caps simultaneously began with a fast-paced slam on their ability to use the microphone to “give great oral.”

The trio was complete with C.R. Avery, who accompanied the poets with piano, harmonica, vocal choruses and human beat-boxing. Avery entertained the audience with his ability to beat-box and play harmonica at the same time, while poets Mike McGee and Shane Koyczan flew through their rhymes.

National Slam Poetry Individual Champions McGee and Koyczan began with hard, quick rhymes and later calmed the audience with soothing flows of inspiration, featuring Avery’s slow choruses reminiscent of Randy Newman and Bruce Springsteen.

The group yelled to the audience and participation was mutual. The poets asked for requests from the audience, many of whom seemed to have seen the poets before. The poets’ subjects ranged from “food porn,” sex and love, and hip-hop, to the beauty of the instantaneous moments in life.

Before performing one last piece McGee and Koyczan lightened the mood by doing impersonations and telling jokes to the audience. After the show, T.O.F.U. met with members of the audience and signed autographs.

One audience member was mayor Dan Coody. He said that he had seen the members before at Jammin’ Java, a coffee shop on the square, during a poetry slam competition.

“I wouldn’t have missed them,” Coody said. “The creative expressionism is out of this world.”

The three members of T.O.F.U. come from Canada and California but travel mostly through Canada. Each member works independently as much as the group works together, said member Mike McGee. McGee said the group came to Fayetteville specifically for Wednesday’s event. Russ Ritter, who graduated last year and is active in slam-poetry around the country, contacted the group.

Ritter said that he has done this event before, and usually it is a greater success.

“Usually we have a lot of people in the audience. Kabin Thomas used to help us. He would have 500 people in the audience,” said Ritter.

T.O.F.U. said they are booked solid through the summer with a tour through Canada. The group was formed about two years ago and said they plan to continue doing both their independent work and their project together.

– Arkansas Traveler, March 3, 2006

[Original review available here.]

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