Spoken word can get a bad rap. So can performance art. I always remember incredibly avant garde stuff (think Maureen in Rent, which I suppose 15 years later isn't incredible or avant garde) that I'm not quite cool or hip enough to get, and I just end up leaving feeling stupid and like I'd missed something.

This was not the case with SoulVerses. The first group, Eagle to Squirrel, consisted of two men and two women. Most of the show consisted of Boom Boom and Keys (the men) playing jazz-based music along with Boom Boom's spoken word. Their set touched on topics including culture, politics, Nick's mom (sort of) and used music, dance and poetry to tie it all together. The highlight? As Mikki Schaffner, one of the Fringe photographers said on her blog, "Chicks with swords". I'm not entirely sure how the dancer with swords tied into everything else, but it was darn cool to watch. My only complaint is that at times Boom Boom was hard to understand-- this might have been due to some equipment issues. I've seen two shows now in the Mr. Pitiful's space, and find it much easier to hear if performers don't use microphones.

Cincinnati Hip Hop Congress rounded out this show with their poetry and hip-hop based performance. In a word, it was moving. Their show consisted of reflections on race and gender. For me, the most powerful of the poems-- and all were powerful-- were the ones dealing with female sexuality and the role of black males. This is a group of people who are fighting stereotypes-- racial, sexual, media-imposed, gender based, you name it-- through the power of poetry and music. Hakim, Rewop and the others (whose names I couldn't make out-- again, microphone issues) all connect with the audience with power and confidence, moving about the sparse Sunday crowd with ease and approachability. This is one Fringe selection that I'm glad is Cincinnati based-- I want to see this show again.

This is Fringe at its best-- it has a message, it's multi-media, it's well executed and a fantastic time.