By Jacqueline Monahan
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They call what they do Junk Rock.  Las Vegas knows them as Recycled Percussion and now the quaking quartet has invaded a third venue since debuting at the MGM Grand in 2010.  After a stint at the Tropicana, the colorful gang consisting of Mr. Red, Mr. Blue, Mr. Black and Mr. Green have brought a revamped show to The Quad Casino & Resort’s Showroom for a two-year residency.

Recycled Percussion 21562
Recycled Percussion
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

Recycled Percussion with models 21587
Recycled Percussion on red carpet with models
Photo credit: Stephen Thorburn

The March 14th inaugural performance began with attendees receiving a drumstick (the wooden kind) and sent to pick out their “instrument” from one of four color-coded trunks (black, red, green or blue).  Contents included plastic buckets, metal sink bowls, stock pots, oxygen tanks, cake pans, carburetors, and hub caps.  There may have even been a bedpan or two.

The props may be old, but the technique is original.  Combining high energy percussion with electric guitar riffs, the beat-driven quartet invites the audience to participate (loudly) throughout the performance.  The show is so interactive that audience members get to play almost as much as the performers.  Video screen prompts let you know when to bang, for how long, and what rhythm – all color-coded – just like the guys on stage.

“Band” members are Justin Spencer, percussionist/drummer/band leader (Red); Jimmy Magoon, electric guitarist (Black); Ryan Vezina, percussionist/drummer (Blue); and Todd Griffin aka DJ Pharaoh, spinmaster/keyboardist /vocalist (Green).  The New Hampshire natives have been creating their unique style of hybrid music (they call it “junk rock”) for over ten years.

The group took third place on season four of America’s Got Talent and have been touring ever since, landing at the Quad with…a bang, of course.

Your humble correspondent has attended the loud, high-energy show three times before (in two different venues) and some things remain the same.  Unfortunately, others have been added that do not highlight the group’s skill and charm to their advantage.

They descend from the ceiling in a gravity defying opening performance, playing trash cans, hub caps, and buckets.  Magoon and his guitar set a rock tone.  Video instructions from a large overhead screen are given to the crowd – when to bang and when to stop.  Other instructions follow from Spencer during the course of the show, as he encourages the audience to emulate his rhythm with their own noisemakers. 

recycled percussion ladders
Photo credit: Dianne R. Davis

Vezina even uses his body as an instrument, thumping and slapping his face, chest, and stomach to make a variety of rhythmic sound variations, impressive in their speed and precision.

Spencer and Vezina, who are cousins, vie for percussive superiority throughout the show in a color drum battle (Red vs. Blue) and later while scaling two opposing tall metal ladders, playing the rungs and joints with drumsticks and swiftly swapping sides without missing a beat.  They climb up high and slide down to the floor.  The audience clangs its approval.

When the performance showcases the skill and precision of its members, it’s an impressive eye-and-arm workout for the audience.  The David Saxe production has added light walls and laser effects, as if there weren’t already enough to see with the sparkling implosion high tech metal and props.

Where the production strays is in the added skits that mostly serve to dumb down the clever premise by offering up unneeded slapstick buffoonery.  The Random Cookie Break seems random, indeed, with all four members leaving the stage at breakneck speed to fling packs of cookies to the crowd, breaking up the performance and leaving the stage bare for several minutes.  And not everyone gets a cookie.

recycled percussion ready
Photo credit: Dianne R. Davis

recycled percussion family
Photo credit: Dianne R. Davis

A skit that has Magoon and Griffin walking behind a sign as if they’re descending stairs, sometimes with funny wigs on, is as puzzling as it is old (vaudeville era).  A large inflatable man, with Vezina inside, bumbles across the stage to Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping “(I Get Knocked Down But I Get Up Again).  Vezina almost didn’t.  The gag that has chosen audience members don chimp masks and play with bananas for a monkey dance-off (and this one is NOT new) is downright embarrassing.

Fortunately, these are spaced fairly far apart so that the skill of the group’s collective and charismatic beat can be appreciated in between.  Audience song recognition is key, because then the beat can be maintained by everyone.  This is apparent in a finale featuring Top Ten rock tunes that has the whole audience on its feet by show’s end.

Now, if they could just maintain that beat.




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