From performances of romantic songs to audience participatory activities that mimicked “The Newlywed Game,” the annual culture show hosted by the Brandeis Taiwanese Student Association (TSA) on Saturday night was a comprehensive celebration of love. While paying homage to Taiwanese traditions of love, the event also focused on Taiwanese dating culture in today’s day and age and encouraged the audience to engage with the possibilities of romance in fun-loving ways.
The show opened with MisMatch, a band of five Brandeis students that has performed their music on campus and in the Boston area. MisMatch’s soft rock sound was pulled together by their lead vocalist’s passionate singing.
Chu Ling Dance Academy was next with an elegant fan dance. A talented member of the Boston-based group later performed an impressive solo ribbon dance.
Emcees Annie Tsai and Jason Chang facilitated a fun game of “How Well Do You Know Your Partner?” towards the end of the first act. Three volunteer couples from the audience stood back to back onstage while guessing answers to questions like, “What’s your partner’s favorite order at Einstein’s?” The game succeeded in eliciting some good laughs, and the crowd only got more excited with the entrance of singer Junshu Zheng.
The Chinese singer-songwriter and Berklee student charmed the audience right away with his smooth voice and charismatic stage presence. Junshu and his band of exceptionally cohesive instrumentalists performed famous Taiwanese and Chinese pop songs like “Wo Yi Ran Ai Ni” and “Xin Tiao.” The Voice of China alumnus warmly thanked TSA for welcoming him to play at Brandeis for the second time before closing out with an upbeat funk original titled “Call Me Whatever” that showed off his falsetto range.
XL Girls, an on-campus hip hop dance group, continued to pump up the crowd with their dynamic choreography. Replete with sharply synchronized moves and eye-catching outfits, XL Girls brought an energy of cool onstage with both their dance numbers.
The night ended with headline act, Nix Tan, a YouTube artist who rose to fame through her ukulele covers and went on to land a spot on Sing! China. Nervous at first, the artist related her unfamiliarity with live audiences to her familiarity with performing on YouTube, a platform on which Tan first began as a fan.
In an endearing accompanying powerpoint, Tan brought the audience through the history of her musical journey, while singing notable songs throughout the presentation to commemorate those milestones. Tan performed songs by AJ Rafael, a fellow YouTube musician who she cited as the reason she first started on YouTube, as well as Maroon 5’s “Sunday Morning,” which was the first cover she uploaded in 2010.
Getting more personal, Tan shared what it was like being born in New York City but raised in Malaysia and all the conflicting feelings having two homes brought. She described “feeling like New York and Malaysia were a part of me, but I wasn’t a part of them” and how she often felt unwelcome in both places growing up. Tan delivered a creative original whose bubblegum pop sound was offset with heartbreaking lyrics about negotiating identity and cultural belonging.
Armed only with a uke and a mic, Tan’s performance really showcased the shining clarity and sweet quality of her voice. Her dulcet voice, however, performed quite a few acts of unexpected acrobatics throughout the show, as she took on fast-paced raps in Chinese and bilingual mashup covers.
Tan wrapped up her act with a cover of Nicki Minaj’s “Superbass” (her first viral cover on YouTube) and her audition song on “Sing! China” called “Ting Ma Ma De Hua.” The crowd waved lit up phones and paper lanterns in the air as Tan ended with a bilingual cover of Coldplay’s “Yellow.”
“Love, Formosa” was a lively celebration of youthful talent and youthful love. Standout performances by Junshu Zheng and Nix Tan showed how multifaceted talent is in the current moment—often transnational, bilingual and genre-bending. Ultimately, the evening was a labor of love born by those who organized it. The TSA E-board was eager to be present with the audience all through the night, whether it was by encouraging crowd participation or introducing every segment of the show with an ever rotating pair of different emcees. Their efforts guaranteed a night of fresh personality and exciting performances.