By Leslie D. Rose
When area pop singer Justin Garner says goodbye, he does so in perfect pitch with lights, screaming fans and a whole bowling alley behind him.
The rising star – by way of MTV’s episodic singing series “Copycat” – bid a formal see-ya-later to his Baton Rouge hometown in full concert style with his July 10 show – The Justin Garner Experience – held at Quarters – Endless Entertainment. Following the goodbye, Garner will embark on his first tour, a series of appearances in Japan and a couple of not-so-secret record label meetings in Los Angeles.
Doors opened at 7 p.m. for the interactive concert, but it was nearly two hours before fans would have their first interaction with the almost-famous Garner.
Before seeing his face however, Garner, by way of what appeared to be a recording, continually hyped up the show and checked in with his fans, several times even semi-explaining the #JGExperience hashtag and concept.
“This is an interactive experience,” the voice said. “So if I want to pull you on stage – let me pull you on stage. If I want to sing to you, let me sing to you and if I wanna touch you… let me touch you.”
Singing an original number, the man behind the voice finally walked through the crowd at around 8:45 p.m. wearing a casual get-up of t-shirt and pants. He quickly took his place with rehearsed precision on the specially-created stage between two vibrant back-up dancers. In front of the crowd of about 80 patrons, he jumped into Usher’s “OMG” which was the first song he copied on the MTV show en route to his $5000 win. Explaining a bit about the competition show, he told the audience that he was actually hoping to have had the chance to perform “Yeah” instead. The song mention then saw him transition into full Usher mode toshow his fans why he had wanted to perform the song so badly. The band then held the tune while Garner disappeared for an extended period of time to change clothing.
Coming back with a little more than the first set’s t-shirt outfit – this time wearing a short sleeved button up over a tee – Garner returned to speak about his production team and concert concept.
“The point of the Justin Garner Experience is to show you who I am as an artist,” he told the crowd in regards to his set list of mostly original tunes.
He continued to sing original songs, encouraging the audience to sing with him before paying tribute to Plaquemine-based soul/funk band The Rockin’ Imperials in which his late father Ernest was a member.
From there Garner began to interact more with his audience through his back-up dancers who ran into out to rev up the crowd.
After one more fairly unknown original tune, Garner hit his last song, “Cherry Bomb”, which was his first taste of area fame as the song has continuously received radio play in the New Orleans area. Dancing with his fans in the crowd, it seemed apparent that Garner expertly selected the fun, pop/R&B charged catchy sing-a-long hooked song for a grand finale.
At the end of the night Garner revealed that MTV cameras had been present the entire evening to document the experience.
After the show several fans stuck around in what appeared to be attempts to chat with soon-to-be celeb. Whether facing the direction of his reentry or not, screams and applause easily revealed that Garner had reemerged from his dressing room. Cameras flashed as he posed with those who waited for him. Smiling, it was obvious that not only did the audience have a great time, but he did as well.
“I’m feeling like I just reached a milestone,” Garner said. “It’s my last Baton Rouge show in a while and it felt like home. I had a good time, it felt great, it was fun and it didn’t feel like work.”
In the coming weeks Garner will be revealing more and more information about his next moves. He advised that anyone interested in knowing where life’s taking him next should stay connected through his website, justingarner.com.