Words by Emma Mazza
If you don’t know Juan Wauters, It’s time to get familiar.
Wauters was born in Uruguay, but has spent most of his life in Queens. He first started releasing music with his band The Beets, and has been putting out solo music via Captured Tracks since 2014. His music can best be described as stripped down indie rock, and he has songs in both English and Spanish. He’s been on the road with the likes of Mac DeMarco and Pond.
But I’m not here to talk about his music, as much as I’m here to talk about his live show. A Juan Wauters show would be best described not as a show, but as an experience. Don’t show up with the intention of being a passive bystander, because Wauters makes sure that every member of the crowd is on their toes, and an active participant all the way through. For those that are seeing him for the first time, the show may be a little bit confusing at first. Those who have seen him before are already in on the fun.
A typical Juan Wauters show starts with him entering the stage, just him and his guitar. He’ll pace back and forth across the stage clapping furiously and chanting “Let’s go!” to get the crowd excited. Wauters has said during his shows that he often doesn’t like to just perform his songs in a typical manner, but that he likes to get everyone involved and create a space free of judgement. While he does perform some songs off of his discography, he spends a lot of time on interactive songs that require full participation and create a camaraderie within the audience.
The first one of these songs, we will call “James Brown”. The lyrics go like this. “Born in Augusta, Georgia, James Brown / Born in Augusta Georgia, James Brown / Born in Augusta Georgia, He was a poor little shoe shine boy / Now he’s the king / The king of soul / Yeah yeah yeah” It’s a fairly simple song with lyrics that are fairly easy to remember. He will repeat the song over and over again (sprinting across the stage between each verse) until the whole crowd is singing along and ideally exclaiming “King of what!?” when Wauters proclaims that James Brown is the king.
The other interactive song, aka “the Fruit Truck Song” is a little more complicated. It goes as follows: “Enjoy the fruit / A truck on the route / Brought to you today / Good the fruit / The truck brought to you / The fruit I am enjoying” After a couple of rounds of performing that song, Wauters leaves it up to the crowd, handing off the mic to various audience members to perform a line. The show cannot, and will not end until the crowd can get through the entire song. No one is safe from the mic, as Wauters will travel to the very back of the venue to give people a go at the song. If someone messes up, or simply doesn’t say anything, Wauters reminds everyone that it’s fine, and it’s a judgement free zone. Fear not, the song will be restarted or revisited later in the show.
If you catch a Juan Wauters show on the right day, he may choose a member of the audience to race. Yes you heard right, to literally race. The crowd will open up a space about the size of the width of the room and Wauters and the lucky volunteer will run from one side of the venue and back. You don’t get anything if you win, but you do get bragging rights.
If you find yourself going to a Juan Wauters show, expect the unexpected, go in with an open mind, and don’t be too cool to sing into the mic. The combination of Juaters whimsical and upbeat tracks woven in with his wild and fun antics, makes for an experience like none other.